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Midsummer review at the Hub, Edinburgh – ‘expanded romcom loses some of its magic’

Sarah Higgins and Henry Pettigrew in Midsummer at the Hub, Edinburgh. Photo: Pete Dobbin Sarah Higgins and Henry Pettigrew in Midsummer at the Hub, Edinburgh. Photo: Pete Dobbin

When David Greig and Gordon McIntyre’s joyous pocket romcom with songs premiered at the Traverse in 2008, it was a compact two-hander. For this year’s Edinburgh International Festival it’s been reworked and expanded. Now it stars four actors instead of two, older and younger versions of the mismatched protagonists, and features a band of actor-musicians who occasionally do double-duty as secondary characters.

The grand hall at the Hub has been decked out for a wedding. Henry Pettigrew and Sarah Higgins play Bob and Helena, a petty criminal and lawyer respectively, who have a drunken one-night stand. Both are at low points in their life and they find solace in each other.

While Greig and McIntyre’s play is no less charming than it was, Kate Hewitt’s production expends a lot of energy on filling the space. Pettigrew and Higgins, and Benny Young and Eileen Nicholas as the older versions of the characters, have to do a lot of running about and clambering up ladders.

The performances are all great, there are still very many sweet moments as well some genuinely poignant and funny ones, and it remains an effective love letter to Edinburgh, but the production strains to create the same magic as the earlier version. There’s also less sense of jeopardy since Bob and Helena appear to have ended up together.

Time doesn’t stand still, people grow and change, as does the world. You cannot stop that, nor should you try, but part of the beauty of the original was its lo-fi nature, the way it spun so much from so little, and that’s been lost.

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Expanded version of David Greig and Gordon McIntyre's romcom sacrifices some of its magic