Reviews GlasgowNationalReviews Published 9 March 2018

The Motherf**ker With The Hat at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow

March 1 - March 17

Locked and loaded: the Scottish premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ comedy is “blisteringly enjoyable”.

Christine Irvine
The Motherf**ker With The Hat, Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Photo: John Johnston.

The Motherf**ker With The Hat, Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Photo: John Johnston.

Glasgow get into the New York state-of-mind with the Scottish premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ fast-talking, sharp-shooting comedy.

Jackie is a recovering alcoholic trying to get himself back on the rails after a stint uptown in penitentiary. His long-term girl Veronica, sponsor Ralph and cousin Julio have all got his back. But the wheels start coming off Jackie’s wagon big-time when he discovers an abandoned item of haberdashery in Veronica’s apartment, unravelling a tangle of hilarious and heart-breaking half-truths and betrayals that make his twelve-step path even thornier than expected.

This is a play that deserves full houses. First up, the writing is impeccable. Guirgis’ script takes-no-prisoners. It’s an endless stream of colourful, articulate street banter that hits those notes of heart-clenching horror and spit-your-drink hilarity that made Trainspotting such a hit. 

The excellent cast are clearly having a ball, each holding their own in a quintet of brilliantly nuanced performances. Alexandra Riley’s Veronica is fierce and open-hearted, Jackie’s equal in love and in violence. Jermaine Dominique traverses Ralph’s gallery of game-faces with ease. Renee Williams brings soft-spoken realism and motherly humanity as Ralph’s put-upon wife,  Victoria. Cousin Julio plays as comic relief, but in this, Kyle Lima’s timing and delivery are spot-on. At the centre of it all, François Pandolfo’s Jackie is a lynch-pin, with the actor turning the multiple facets of his character to the light with emotional sensitivity and an endearing stage presence.

Creating downtown New York on the Glasgow stage, Kenny Miller’s appealingly homely and unusually subdued set neatly reinforces the multiple faces the characters display — from the squalid uproar of Veronica and Jackie’s apartment to Julio’s minimalist yoga-bunny sun-deck. Backing the action, Sam Jones’ sound design is evocative without being intrusive.

With a play so dialogue-heavy and action light, it’s difficult to create dynamic movement on stage. At times, Andy Arnold’s direction (mostly characters wandering in and out of doors) could be more varied, to help keep the audience’s attention throughout some of the wordier sections, especially amid all the bro-to-bro truth-telling in the final third. But at a brisk one hour forty, a few moments of wordiness is a small price to pay for a script so consistently locked and loaded.

The title doesn’t scream ‘easy sell’, and small artsy theatres in the centre of Glasgow and Cardiff are incongruous settings for Motherf**ker, three thousand miles from its Broadway home. But this is a style of play that new writing theatres like the Tron definitely need more of. Characterful, gritty, genuinely excellent comedy drama that bridges cultures and experiences in a big-hearted way, introducing cautious audiences to new playwrights, new settings and new stories. Blisteringly enjoyable.

The Motherf**ker With The Hat is at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until March 17th, then at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, until March 31st. For more details, click here.

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Christine Irvine is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

The Motherf**ker With The Hat at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow Show Info


Directed by Andy Arnold

Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Cast includes Jermaine Dominique, Kyle Lima, François Pandolfo, Alexandra Riley, Renee William

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