Describing Parlour Song, Mermaids’ first show of the semester, is hard. “Parlour Song is a show – show? Yeah. Show is the word.” That’s how Jamie Jones, director alongside Alexander Gillespie, described his play. Thankfully, he went on.
“It’s a play about a guy called Ned, who’s a demolition man. He goes around the country blowing up buildings. And he’s come to a point in his life where he’s no longer sleeping, and things are disappearing from his house whenever goes away, and he’s going to his friend Dale for help, and he’s very suspicious of his wife Joy. Sexually suspicious – ‘Hi, we’re sexually suspicious, and we’re going to play you a few songs.’”
This brand of humour, sudden and bizarre, is somewhat characteristic of the team. My interview began, and was in fact delayed by, Gillespie playing on a toy trumpet.
Watching the two directors interact was not unlike witnessing a great comic duo. Jones and Gillespie answering my questions while simultaneously arguing with each other can be best described as “Laurel and Hardy: The College Years”. They seem a good team to handle what they’re billing as a dark comedy. If only it were that simple.
Jones calls the play a comedy, because “there are funny bits.” Gillespie used the terms “tragicomedy” and “British suburban drama,” whatever that means. Which means that I’m 200 words in and haven’t yet been able to deduce for certain the genre of the play.
I do know that Parlour Song is a play from Jez Butterworth, a writer most famous for his Jerusalem. Parlour Song, in comparison, gets very little attention, because it was first performed the same year as Jerusalem. Fair enough.
I also know that the cast is incredible. Noah Liebmiller, Hannah Raymond-Cox and Louis Catliff can all be recognized from their performances in Gillespie’s last production, Equus, or from this author’s own production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Which reminds me. Liebmiller’s character is supposed to be balding. Unfortunately, most undergraduates have hair . The production budgeted for a bald cap, but that’s difficult to do right. So Liebmiller volunteered to shave his head. And Gillespie agreed to join him in solidarity. Gillespie explains, “I was completely sober, so I’m not sure why I said this.”
That shows what I think is a definitive willingness to go the extra mile for the sake of the show, which goes beyond haircuts. Some directors need to strongly encourage their actors to take off their clothes because the script says so. Parlour Song has people volunteering to do so. Jones explained that the play has people in “various states of undress” (which is one reason to go see it), and that some of those states of undress (of which Jones says there are “7, but you’ll have to work out the other 6”) are called for in the script, or by the director, but that others come straight from the cast.
I suppose what I’m saying is that I have very little idea what Parlour Song is, but I do know who the people involved are. And that’s reason enough to get excited about it.
Parlour Song shows this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 at the Barron Theatre. Tickets are 5 pounds and can be reserved from Barronboxoffice@st-andrews.ac.uk.
Images provided with Jamie Jones, by Jamie Jones, and for Jamie Jones