Theatre Review: The Tobacco Merchant’s Lawyer @ Finborough

thetobaccomerchantslawyer.jpg A satisfyingly succinct one act piece, The Tobacco Merchant’s Lawyer requires the audience to tune in its multi-lingual ears as it’s performed in the notoriously challenging Glaswegian accent in this English premiere of a new play by award-winning Iain Heggie.

Callum Cuthbertson’s technical skill and ability to deliver a good punch line as the local, Enoch Dalmellington, however, cannot be faulted. Despite a few stumbled lines, he is engaging and entertaining, playing the bumbling yet philosophical Dalmellington effortlessly and drawing the audience into the story. Set in a very different Merchant City to the one that stands there now, the script paints a lush picture of the streets of 1775 Glasgow, and the rich characters that walked populated them.

The detailed but simplistic set is ideal and Dalmellington’s luxuriant costume exemplifies the 18th century affluence of the successful port town. Unfortunately, the plot of this piece is decidedly thin, a disappointing outcome from one of Scotland’s most revered playwrights of recent times. A tale of Dalmellington’s issues with marrying off a dour daughter and trying to keep hold of all floors of his house in troubling times, much of the comedy relies on fortune teller Mistress Zapata’s ‘remarkably’ accurate prophecies for a 21st century Glasgow. You might need a Glaswegian in tow lest these tidbits be lost on you. Some audience members admit to being decidedly confused for the first few giggles that arise from the predominantly Scottish audience.

Though an enjoyable and gently amusing production, we’re inclined to think that perhaps this play will never quite be received as well as it is in its glorious home town.

By Caroline Hall

The Tobacco Merchant’s Lawyer is at the Finborough Theatre until 29 October. All seats £9 on Tuesdays, £13 on other days. Book online.

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