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Tobacco Road review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘appreciably ambitious’

Incognito Theatre's Tobacco Road at the Pleasance, Edinburgh. Photo: Tim Hall Photography Incognito Theatre's Tobacco Road at the Pleasance, Edinburgh. Photo: Tim Hall Photography

It’s 1920s London, but the interwar world of Incognito’s Tobacco Road is less interested in flappers and gin fizz, and more in smuggling weapons and picking pockets.

Directed by Roberta Zuric, this British gangster story is set south of the river and starts when the local girl gang (Atlanta Hayward and Jennie Eggleton) team up with the local boy gang (Angus Castle-Doughty, George John and Alex Maxwell). The influence of the BBC’s Peaky Blinders is pretty clear, even down to the pre-show soundtrack of Nick Cave.

The vitality of the piece comes from the strength of the ensemble. The choreography (Zac Nemorin) ranges from slow-mo synchronicity to finger-clicking musical theatre interludes. One particularly good moment involves the use of a single rope to represent an entire boxing ring, complete with anger-laced fight taking place inside.

It’s an appreciably ambitious and slick piece of theatre to stage in the small space of Pleasance Courtyard Upstairs. The costumes, energy and thoroughness of design elements are all virtues – and it’s also quite funny in places.

What counts against it is the lack of a plot containing the same amount of momentum as the ensemble. But with some judicious script editing, it could really work.

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Ensemble performs Peaky Blinders-inspired show with verve and style