Playing cards on the desk (yellow, purple. or in any other case), Dundee Rep’s Smile has a particular place in my coronary heart.
Not solely was it my final theatrical expertise earlier than lockdown, it was the primary time I had been to the theatre with my beloved large brother.
In truth, it was the primary time he had ever been to the Rep. He was tempted extra, I’m certain, by his admiration for Jim McLean and love for Dundee United than an evening out together with his wee sister.
I’ve distinct reminiscences of him heading off with a bunch of mates to Europe in the 1980s, following United in these glory days.
A play about Tannadice’s most legendary determine would imply extra to him than me despite the fact that, remaining card on that desk, I’m a Dundee United supporter.
So with the reminiscences of the good dwell theatre night time nonetheless recent, it’s simple to come back to this new filmed model, the primary by the brand new Rep Studios on-line platform, with just a little trepidation.
The “dwell” model was such a robust two-hander that it appeared nearly inconceivable to deliver that stage of power to movie, significantly when there can be no shared viewers expertise of laughter.
It has been greater than doable, nevertheless, by means of taking a step again and looking out on the play in another way. There’s no one-camera static strategy right here.
The digicam work is dynamic and the close-ups imply we will get pleasure from all of the nuances of the performances by Barrie Hunter as Jim McLean and Chris Alexander as Jimmy, the character that guides Jim by means of the reflections on his life.
It additionally signifies that the dynamic opening the place Jim, recent from a touchline tantrum and thundering into the dressing room for his workforce “speak”, is much more explosive.
Hunter’s portrayal of the person was rightly praised on the time, however this model signifies that we see the smaller moments extra clearly, we see the considering of the person relatively than the supervisor.
It additionally permits us to get higher acquainted with Alexander’s Jimmy character, which may simply be misplaced within the breadth of Hunter’s efficiency.
Philip Differ’s play, nonetheless directed by Sally Reid, is instructed by means of the soccer in fact, however is a a lot wider examination of a person who had depths that he thought it was none of our enterprise to see.
The character is vital. Michael Sheen’s Brian Clough in The Damned United is one other instance of what a life immersed in soccer and a starvation for fulfillment.
Now that it’s dedicated to movie, Hunter has carried out the identical for McLean.
Not like Sheen he doesn’t go for the uncannily correct impersonation, he offers us the spirit of the Jim we all know and due to Differ’s script, which was labored on with the assistance of McLean’s household, he offers a glimpse behind the door of the Broughty Ferry household residence.
Jimmy gently guides him by means of his rollercoaster relationships with soccer, the media, the followers, and his household.
When Jim talks about his spouse Doris had been lump-in-the-throat moments on stage, much more so now, knowing that she lost him on Boxing Day last year.
After all there may be a lot for the followers, however there are solely a few references which may go over the heads of the uninitiated.
Most are defined, fortunately with none clunky exposition. Even his uneasy relationship with Duncan Ferguson.
Filming has additionally allowed some particular results – nothing that takes away the theatricality however slight enhancements that assist to inform the story for the smaller canvas of a display.
I made a decision to forged it to the TV relatively than watching on a laptop computer for a fuller expertise. (The timecode is only for evaluations.) Even the set design, which signified his final years residing with dementia works properly on movie at this dimension.
One phrase of warning for watching at residence. It feels a lot swearier in the lounge at residence than it did within the secure area of the theatre! Possibly watch the place little ears are whenever you press play.
If this is a sign of what Rep Studios will be capable to provide alongside its dwell performances, it can improve its status much more. I do know of United followers in Australia, Canada, and around the globe who’ve already purchased tickets.
Smile itself is up there with a number of the Rep’s nice productions.
Purchase tickets to see it on-line till Sunday, Could 16 at www.dundeerep.co.uk