Angus Yellowlees’ “Styx,” a student play from Glasgow, is currently showing at the Surgeons Hall. It is advertised as a “tragicomic thriller” and “loosely based on the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice,” but, to my enormous relief, it becomes speedily apparent that “Styx” is just a plain farce. There is never very much that one can write about farce – it either works or it doesn’t – but it still falls to me to be strenuous in maintaining that “Styx” works. After less than a minute, you can sit back satisfied in the knowledge that these people know what they are doing. You are confident that you won’t be disappointed, and indeed you aren’t.
“Styx” could never be mistaken for a satire, since it kicks feebly at the easiest of targets: birdwatchers, bed-and-breakfast owners, and “the idiocy of rural life.” There are no ironies but puns, and gleefully atrocious puns too (most of them unleashing exquisite tortures upon the name Juan). There is no worthwhile reason to bring up Orpheus, except to fool classically educated theatregoers into agreeing to sit through this pantomime. But these people know what they are doing.
Although the cast are all equally bouncy, Marc Mackinnon is visibly the silliest in the gang as a village lollypop man who is elevated to perfection by the addition of green eyebrows. There is a hugely enjoyable murder scene, though it would benefit from some attention to detail. Both the killer and his victim ended up caked with blood but they didn’t remember to get any on the kitchen knife. You wouldn’t normally get away with that, but these people get away with it. They know what they are doing.
Incidentally, “Styx” sounded clean enough to me to be shown to children, but little ones will be at a disadvantage with the lack of tiered seating. Errant classically educated adults might feel a little guilty at having such a magnificently silly play all to themselves.