Writers Block Edinburgh Theatre Arts

I’m a big Woody Allen fan so was intrigued (and a bit apprehensive) to see if well respected local amateur company Edinburgh  Theatre Arts could do justice to his work. I’m pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed and, while they don’t always do full justice to Woody’s quickfire script and the accents might not sound totally authentic to any passing American tourists, they make a very good attempt at it.

Allen, of course, is best known for his films but he also wrote a few pieces for the stage. Writers Block was written and performed in 2003 and comprises two short one act playlets – Riverside Drive and Old Saybrook. Both explore familiar Allen themes of marital infidelity and the creative angst of the writers and both feature the kind of wit and wisecracking one-liners we know and love. In Riverside Drive, we meet Jim, a successful writer, who is waiting on a bench by the River Hudson for his lover, Barbara, to arrive. He is joined by an unhinged homeless man who it transpires has been stalking him for months, convinced that Jim has stolen his ideas and life story to feature in his successful screenplay. David McCallum captures perfectly the look and the neurotic mannerisms of the Jim/Allen character and Stuart Mitchell is excellent as Fred, his psychotic stalker. The latter has a lot of lines to deliver and has to deliver them at a cracking pace to let the humour shine through effectively.

The second play, Old Saybrook, is set in the Connecticut home of Sheila and Norman where they are celebrating their wedding anniversary with her sister Jenny and husband David. All seems idyllically happy until the arrival of Hal and Sandy, the previous owners of the house, and, when they reveal some of the house’s secrets, mayhem ensues. It’s a piece that needs good comic timing and interaction between the players. The standouts for me in that respect were Derek Marshall and Mags McPherson as Hal and Sandy. Sheila and Jenny were the weaker links in the cast and could do with a bit more work on their American accents. These are minor complaints though. This is a talented local amateur company who aren’t frightened to take on challenging pieces and who consistently deliver quality.

Irene Brownlee