The in-yer-face playwrights so dominate books about ’90s theatre that it’s easy to forget that the decade also gave us the off-their-heads variety – the prime example being the Bush Theatre’s hit ‘Trainspotting’ adaptation. But this gangster comedy by Simon Donald came first and, though it’s got less substance than a bag of cut-price coke, ‘The Life of Stuff’ now seems a worthy precursor to anything Guy Ritchie ever made.
It’s got a convoluted set-up, but once it’s wound it flies. About to open a nightclub in a disused Glaswegian warehouse, two-bit racketeer Willie Dobie (Gregory Finnegan) has connived to bump off his competition. Locked in a basement, local liabilities Fraser and Janice realise they’ve inadvertently combined to murder Glasgow’s fiercest drugs baron Alex Sneddon. Chuck in a severed toe, a sawn-off shotgun and a severe bout of eczema and you’ve got a pilled-up Orton farce with psychotic tendencies.
Theatre503’s artistic director Paul Robinson delivers a top-quality, ten-to-the-dozen fringe revival with a brilliant post-nuclear playground set from James Perkins. It’s a mite nostalgic in tone and you can’t always disentangle Donald’s sinuous plot, but a strong cast revel in larger-than-life characters. Rhys Owen gives a stand-out comic turn as a dim underling and it’s worth keeping tabs on debutant Pamela Dwyer. Matt Trueman