A Split Decision
Referendum debate as divorce comedy best taken as the bit of fun it’s meant to be
This article is from 2014.
With so many commentators discussing the forthcoming independence referendum as a marriage in crisis, comedian Keir McAllister’s decision to stage the debate in a Relate consulting room makes a lot of sense. Inspired by Stanley Odd’s song, 'Marriage Counselling' (and in its rhyming form, by David Greig’s The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart) this is an ambitious attempt to make comedy out of the potential breakup of Britain.
Paul Sneddon, the character comedian better known as Vladimir McTavish and Bob Doolally, represents the whisky-chugging, emotionally illiterate Scotland. Fellow funny-woman Jojo Sutherland - in a Maggie Thatcher blue frock, pearls and complete with plummy voice - is the bossy, overbearing England. Gareth Waugh struggles to referee a therapy session that turns into a verbal boxing match. Bernard Ponsonby: your job is safe.
Sneddon’s part is the best-written and his performance is the strongest element in this show. He has hip flasks and quarter bottles stashed all over his body. At one point he hides in a lamp. Never has a tartan travelling rug worked so hard; he wears it, memorably, over his tartan trews and jacket, like a sarong. Sutherland’s character, however, is clunky. By definition this couple are stereotypes but representing England as a domineering, sneering woman who cares only about what the neighbours think takes the cliché too far. Plus, the rhymes and jokes of her part are just not sharp enough to smooth over these bumps.
Sneddon’s performance pulls A Split Decision back to the McGonagallesque bit of fun it’s meant to be. Just. But it might have worked better as a one-man show.
Assembly Rooms, 0844 693 3008, until 24 Aug (not 11), 1.30pm, £10 (£9).