Theatre review: Rapid Departure, MacArts, Galashiels

MacArts, Galashiels
MacArts, Galashiels

IT’S difficult to imagine a better setting than MacArts in Galashiels for this latest touring show from the Highland-based company Right Lines.

Rapid Departure | Rating: *** | MacArts, Galashiels

Written before Scotland’s latest floods, Rapid Departure is an 80-minute comedy set in a village hall turned rescue centre, after the local river bursts its banks. Since MacArts is a church right beside the Gala Water, now transformed into a community arts centre, the role fits it like a glove.

It’s difficult, though, to imagine any audience, anywhere, failing to warm to Euan Martin and Dave Smith’s jolly tale of how ageing volunteers Albert and Gloria - plus humble young council worker Eric - set about chivvying a church hall full of evacuated residents (willingly played by the audience) through a long night of limited rations, sing-songs, and party-games. The plot is as feeble as they come, featuring Eric’s shy reluctance to propose to his gorgeous kayak-queen girlfriend, and the threat to his future happiness posed by Connor, a super-handsome global eco-traveller who washes in from the hills.

Yet if the storyline creaks like an old church door, the dialogue bristles with cheeky, well-crafted one-liners that often compensate for the romantic cliches. Somewhere among the comedy, there’s some timely political argument about the real reasons for Scotland’s flood crisis, from climate change to poor land management. And in the end there’s a strange feeling - in Mark Saunders’s good-hearted production, with a fine cast led by Estrid Barton, James Bryce and Ross Allan - that for all the daftness of the story, this is in some ways a sharper show about exactly where Scotland is now than many a more pretentious production, with a more elegant script.

• At Oxnam tonight (Thursday), Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh tomorrow (Friday), and on tour until 19 March

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