It would seem at first glance that a play about a pair of Sonny and Cher obsessives would be the perfect excuse for a night of high camp glitz and glamour, more sequins than substance, but Stef Smith’s new work,And The Beat Goes On proves to be a much darker and more satisfying beast.
It’s 1989, somewhere in the US, behind the closed doors of their breeze block garage, ex-pat Scots Peter (Johnny McKnight) and Lily (Julie Brown) spend their evenings recreating the entire TV back catalogue of the outrageously clad singing duo, but the arrival of new neighbour Joan (Julie Wilson Nimmo), a Molly Ringwald-esque vision in Barbie pink satin, sees Peter and Lily’s fragile existence start to disintegrate.
The explanation for this eccentric behaviour, the reasons that Peter and Lily are living a life “beyond normal” is slowly unravelled in Smith’s economical 75 minute work. The greatest strength of the piece (apart from the obvious chemistry between long-term collaborators McKnight and Brown) is the establishment of a sense of tension and unease from the very first moments and the air of mystery is maintained to the end: tiny hints are dropped into the dialogue, just when we thought it was predictable the clues which led us down one path veer us off onto another.
To say any more would reveal all, but safe to say, it plays upon the thirst for works like Gone Girl and draws upon real-life events and prompts commentary on the shelf-life of what was once news-worthy, and the world in which we live where “tragedy is tedious”.
This is an intriguing and thoroughly satisfying work, an accomplished piece of writing, briskly directed and beautifully acted (save for Julie Wilson Nimmo’s American accent, which is forgivable given the character).
Don’t be fooled by the high camp publicity posters, “a little darkness didn’t do anyone any harm”, Lily declares, indeed, in the case of And The Beat Goes On, a little darkness goes a hell of a long way to restoring your faith in new writing in Scotland.
Runs until 28th March at the Tron Theatre then touring
This review was originally written for and published by http://www.the public reviews.com at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/and-the-beat-goes-on-tron-theatre-glasgow/