On the Sidelines by William McIlvanney

Review by Christina Byrne

Lewis Howden is John Mitchell, living alone in a shabby rented room. After sixteen years of marriage, he and wife Catherine have separated and are soon to divorce. He has just come back from watching eleven-year-old son Gary play football and compares the laid back, know-all attitude of today?s children with his own avid, almost passionate interest in the game.

He tells of his wife's insistence that he move from a job on the shop floor to working as a sales rep. Since the separation his teenage daughter has almost shut him out and he wonders what Catherine has saying about him.

William McIlvanney's gift for language and clever one-liners draw the audience into the play creating sympathy for his character. The situation of the lone father is a familiar one. John Mitchell describes with wry humour how he had tried to tell his son that the parents are to be divorced. They had been in his car.

'He looked everywhere' he said. 'Could have got a degree in studying the glove compartment'.

The mood changes when John starts talking about his new relationship, confiding that he was sure Sally was 'the one'. The tender love story ends in farce when Sally's former lover turns up. John's graphic description of the escapade had his audience howling.

Haven't we all been in some kind of a situation that promises much and delivers nothing? Even the end of his marriage leaves him with very little. He had told Catherine to give him what she could afford from the house sale and she sends him a cheque for ?3,000.

Lewis Howden plays John Mitchell with just the right amount of humour and pathos, translating McIlvanney?s work into a funny yet emotional play. Make sure you see it.

C. Byrne

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