Martin McCormick stands tall and kind-of innocent, in his own story of how he gets dumped in South Bend, Indiana. Most people go to South Bend because they like Studebaker cars and college football at Notre Dame. Not Martin, "a lad with two left feet from Drumchapel"; Martin went for a girl. This is his wry history of love on the West Coast and tears in the Midwest, although why Indiana is a Midwestern state defeats his sense of geography.
It’s not a sorry tale, although ‘cautionary’ might work. Think Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, edited in Glasgow: droll, despondent, and smart. At 23, Martin is off on a four month exchange to CalArts in Los Angeles; the laddie is abroad (for the first time?) and he meets a Girlfriend with no name. She has a mother, of sorts, called Charlotte who – back home in South Bend – brings the gothic drapes down. She’s a shaven-haired throwback to TV’s Munsters and the Addams Family, though Martin’s too young to know that.
Ghastly Charlotte is played by Jess Chanliau, who is also the twenty or so other characters – including Girlfriend – who walk on to people McCormick’s beguiling narrative. She has the movement skills to do it, and her American accent is the real thing. Martin finds the appeal of an all-American girlfriend irresistible – naturally she’s part Irish, Norwegian and Cherokee – but his enthusiasm is checked by the Glasgow in his head, superbly, miserably, voiced by David Pollock. Pollock also provides a supply of foley effects that are open to view; the sound of a suitcase whose wheels are coming off is a particular standout.
Edinburgh-based Grid Iron (always worth following) and Plat־־form, Glasgow, are the producers of South Bend; Ben Harrison directs and Martin McCormick wrote it. It is emphatically Scottish in its humour and outlook, and is successful in those terms alone. Never underestimate the hilarious effect of the word ‘walloper’ upon English ears. I wonder how it would be understood in South Bend?
Jokes about accent and pronunciation apart, the piece works as a testimonial to a downhearted young man in lousy circumstances. It’s an affectionate, comic, send-up of a younger self and a ‘Hiya’ to the US of A, as well as a thank-you to the kind guy who gave Martin a lift to the airport and outta there when he – and that bumping suitcase – were on the wrong side of the tracks. And most of it, Martin says, is true.