Cosmic Scallies (3 stars)

This article is from 2017

Cosmic Scallies

Great performances but lack of depth in fraught friendship study

Dent (Rachel Denning) and Shaun (Reuben Johnson) are somewhat unlikely best friends in the neglected town of Skelmersdale. She's an articulate university student, he's pretty dodgy and seemingly unemployable. She is struggling with health problems, he can get her illegal painkillers. Writer Jackie Hagan sets them up together in stultifying environments – job centres, chemists and corner shops – to denote the class barrier always straining to tear down their already fraught relationship.

Despite some sharp one-liners, nice use of surtitles which float above them like speech bubbles, and two excellent performances throughout, the play never really ignites. It's too keen to make points about working-class culture without any real depth, and the use of nostalgic references to children's shows Supergran and Button Moon in VHS format seem out of place amid present day talk of scratchcards and documentaries by Grayson Perry. It's bewildering and seems like the writer's childhood, as opposed to those of the characters.

The clichés of the poor as feckless, directionless and unwilling to be educated (particularly from a masculine perspective) are also a real problem. It's a pity, as there is potential for an interesting character study here, of a lasting friendship which transcends boundaries. Still, Denning and Johnson make a great double act with a lot of chemistry, and there is an undeniable sweetness amid the urban cynicism.

Summerhall, until 26 Aug (not 9,16, 23), 6.30pm £12 (£10).

Cosmic Scallies

  • 3 stars

Graeae Theatre Company and Royal Exchange Theatre A witty and touching new play about class, friendship and absence, set in the forgotten town of Skelmersdale by award-winning writer and comedian Jackie Hagan. Shaun and Dent grew up best friends on the same council estate in Skem. Dent left, full of ambition, but 10 years…