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Best Western review at Assembly Edinburgh Suite Edinburgh

An estranged father scared of death, a son with a grievance, a mother who’s struck out in the motel business on her own and her pregnant wildcat daughter are just some of the colourful characters in Rich Hall’s new play. With an unerring ear for dialogue, strong themes of reconciliation and mortality, and whiplash wisecracks, this is a strong piece of theatre with excellent performances from a gifted cast.

The play is set in an American motel room in the dustbowl end of nowheresville, USA, authentically recreated in Anna Calligaro’s detailed set design. As it opens, Del, the knocked about, middle-aged hotel owner, is facing the demolition of her livelihood because of government plans to extend the local highway. One of her few guests is her ex-husband Early. He should be getting ready for a major heart operation but sits in whisky-soaked stasis in front of the TV instead. The trigger for the action is the arrival of their son, Toby, and his wife. Toby has some reckoning to make with the father who ran away when he was a boy.

There’s some first class writing in evidence, in particular a scene in which Toby recounts being stabbed by a pair of mule skinning shears belonging to his father. Hall’s dialogue here is tough as old leather, perfectly capturing the cadences of the accent, and with a firm grip on structure. Elsewhere, the script remains springy with anticipation, even in the more workaday exchanges.

With echoes of Sam Shepard, Hall creates a convincing world with plausible tensions and regrets. There’s humour too, especially in the character of Ed, a manipulative department of transport official and the pregnant daughter Ryvita, who can’t narrow down her child’s father to fewer than six men.

The main criticism is that all the plot strands don’t quite come together at the end, and there’s no clear climax. Some visual diversion from Early shooting up TV sets in his room is comical but feels out of place, especially when the TVs are stretchered off by paramedics. But overall, this is a compelling production.

Production Information

Assembly Edinburgh Suite, Edinburgh, August 3-27

Rich Hall
Rich Hall
Karen Eva Hall
Kyle Fabel, Maria Golledge, Tim Williams, Tom Stade, Dagmar Dâ??â??ring, Carol Cleveland, Karen Eva Hall, John Novotny, Vince Fluke
Running Time
1hr 20mins

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