Review: South Bend at Gilded Balloon at the Museum


5 Stars

South Bend, Gilded Balloon at the Museum, 13-27 Aug (not 14, 21), 3pm

“Trust me,” South Bend’s writer and lead, Martin McCormick begins the show. In a world full of deceptions, lies and ‘fake news’ it’s hard to trust anything or anyone these days. South Bend is a show based around these deceptions; it explores how people and the media can deceive you and distort your perception of something, how people can deceive you to further their own agenda, and how your culture and surroundings can deceive you and what you perceive as normal.

It follows the autobiographical tale of McCormick’s relationship with America. He travels there as an exchange student, and then again later, returning to visit his girlfriend, but his infatuation is started in adolescence, as he is fed the golden images of the States via TV programmes. Here, the audience is reminded of their own nostalgic infatuation as images of the likes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Happy Days are flashed on a screen. South Bend then develops into a coming-of-age tale as McCormick transfers to California as a student and is treated as the interesting new ‘exotic’ foreigner – a very alien concept to your average Scotsman.

The show continues and reaches its turning point after Martin returns to Scotland before abruptly travelling back to America, this time to South Bend, Indiana, following an unfortunate incident. The main deceptions in the show now develop; his girlfriend isn’t the same person he knew, he isn’t the ‘exotic’ stranger in a foreign land, and there is a massive culture shock between what he knew and Scotland and what faces him in the Midwest.

South Bend is a clever show that balances theatre, comedy, American extravagance and melodrama, Scottish cynicism and delivers it in a neatly packaged hour full of fantastic performances and impressive technical feats. McCormick delivers a powerful, empathetic narration while co-star Jess Chanliau morphs herself into every other character seamlessly. Especially impressive (as a sound graduate I was geeking out pretty hard) is David A. Pollock’s live sound tech-ing and Foley’s performance as he creates and triggers the sound effects throughout the show. Some moments feel a bit forced or out of place, like a rant on modern American politics and a joke ripped straight out of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, however as a whole South Bend is a fully entertaining show with strong performances throughout.

Steve Wilson

5 stars

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