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46

[The following contains spoilers.]

“Help! We’re trapped in this room! Open the door!”

The four lads in Sarah Hailstones’ new play “The Suicidal Tendencies of Sheep and A Dog Called The Hoff [somebody else can explain the title to you]” are trapped inside a hotel room. This storyline incurs the risk of repeatedly reminding the audience that they are themselves (effectively) trapped in a room. If we become more bored and dismayed than these lads, the play will be hoisted by its own petard.

Declan (John Lake) has invited his small-town pals to Edinburgh and he has procured a last-minute hotel room. When one of the pals volunteers to go and buy some alcohol, the door handle comes off in his hand. We do not have any alcohol ourselves: the box office attendant told me that the bar at the Spaces on North Bridge is presently off limits. From the very beginning, there is already an affinity between audience and characters.

What is that hotel door made of? Reinforced steel? Those four great louts can surely make short work of a hotel door, but perhaps this is the point of the play: it does not occur to them to join forces. It is a little like that claustrophobic Chinese fable in which the residents of hell do not realise that they are supposed to use the gigantic chopsticks to feed each other.

Dec springs the news on his pals that he is engaged to be married and that this is supposed to be a surprise stag party. Even with the resultant bickering and claustrophobia, it is still one of the most enjoyable stag parties I have ever seen.

Suicidal Tendencies” is entertaining, but not in a very distinguished way. It is always hilarious when you are clowning about with your mates and this lot are like any set of mates. Once they get going, they are naturally quite funny. I was somehow more impressed by “Suicidal Tendencies” when I learned that the playwright is female. This horseplay between mates must be incomprehensible to her, and yet she has mimicked it very realistically.

I liked this play less when it moved on to the inevitably deeper, sterner stuff. People are always sobered by the unexpected peace of a stuck lift or a car stranded in snowdrifts. They begin to reflect upon their innermost lives and their innermost lives are always predictable and the same. Both here and more generally throughout the play, the actors at times dragged along the writing. All of the characters are vivid and the camaraderie between them seems authentic. Chris MacFarlane is particularly good as the ruefully-wisecracking cancer victim.

We get to leave at the end. I like to think that the characters also put their heads together and eventually bashed down that door.

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