Mike McLeish and Fiona Harris: ...Plus One
...Plus One takes the characters of a Nineties sitcom or soap – six thirty-something white middle-class wine-swilling friends – and catapaults them fifteen years into the future.
On New Years Eve 1996 we meet the members of the band The Nervous Wrecks: the singer, Delta, Irish Casanova Seamus, good-hearted Rick and everyman Joe, and the two plus-one hangers-on, Nikki and Veronica. Fast forward fifteen years and Nikki and Joe are happily married, Veronica and Rick are also married (less happily), Seamus has realised that he's in love with Nikki and Delta has changed her name to Bliss.
These characters are all familiar to us, but they are given a fresh spin with deft performances from both McLeish and Harris – who play all six roles between them. McLeish seems able to shift between characters instantaneously, and embodies each one so fully that he makes it seem effortless. By the end, the audience feels almost surprised to see that there are only two actors taking the curtain call. Harris, too, plays all three characters with ease, but her reliance on costume changes and one-sided phone conversations means that her characterisations are less differentiated.
Of course, McLeish must sing, and in the final scene his strong, clear voice and impeccable comedic timing allow for a hilarious gig-within-a-play. It’s a moment which has the audience’s undivided attention. It’s also a moment which makes us realise the full potential of the show, and all it might have been.
Unfortunately, while the script is often insightful and regularly funny, it occasionally sounds stilted. The musical performance is a one-off and while McLeish’s talents could have been utilised to greater effect, the audience is left wanting more. The characters are all relatable, but too familiar, almost caricatures of themselves. We know these guys from Friends and Coupling, but we don’t really care about them. They exist for comedic purposes only, which prevents us from truly feeling a connection. The dynamic direction and vibrant performances can’t get around the tiny stage upstairs at Trades Hall, and the use of a couch as a prop only exacerbates this.
The show has moments of greatness and is often hilarious, but at the end, we feel that nothing has been truly resolved. It’s disappointing that the moments of greatness – the musical performance, a lot of the banter, and the rapid-fire love triangle - are undermined by the shallowness of the writing. However, these are small criticisms for a comedy show: … Plus One offers a raucous and entertaining night out.