Green* Disclaimer: I am not (nor do I claim to be) a professional theatre critic. Instead, consider this a plebeian’s opinion of the arts. Real people have feelings, too.
Elvis Presley’s fame was not limited to his native United States. It’s reach traveled across the pond and all the way into the hearts of young women in Prestwick, Scotland where on March 3, 1960, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll landed on his flight home from his time in the Army.
This stop to refuel is the basis of the Swiftkick Theatre and New Celts Production of “Prestwick Elvis,” a lively and endearing comedy about one young woman’s dream to meet the love of her life and the King (who, surprisingly enough, may very well not be the same person).
The audience is first introduced to Marie Briggs (Debi Pirie) mid-reverie. As she removes her coat and purse, she transports us back in time to the day she found out Elvis was going to be in town. Marie is spirited and salty, an intoxicating personality with a sense of humor on her side. Trying to claim what may be the only man her older sister hasn’t known in the Biblical sense, she goes to great lengths to secure an audience with Elvis, and in doing so stumbles into the lives of Eric McGaughey, George Henderson and Angus Stewart.
The three men are nothing short of an army brotherhood. Their brazen honesty and crude humor makes one feel as though they have stumbled into a private conversation with the boys, much as Marie really does. Eric (Sean O’Brien) and George (Andy Robertson) appreciate and share Marie’s obsession with the King; this leads them to the absurd decision of letting her loiter in their workspace while they wait hopefully for Elvis (who hopefully won’t need to use the lavatory, as Eric is so apt to point out after his own trip).
Angus (Andrew Sim) does protest too much, claiming to be a devoted Frank Sinatra man and calling Elvis’ work a lower form of music. This distain stems from more than just Angus’ tastes in music, though, and is artfully revealed to the audience over time through the antics of Eric, George and later the weasel of a reporter Lewis Bennett (Malachi Reid). During such moments as the “trial” where a bashful Angus has his feelings for Marie called into question, Eric shines as a witty ringleader with a sharp tongue and sharper mind.
The group dynamic drives the story through what could otherwise become a very stagnant one-room, one moment performance. With simple costuming and minimal set, the play really does rely entirely on the characters ability to drive the story forward.
Despite this light-hearted ambiance, during the time these people are gathered in this room together, the audience is invited deeper into their pasts, learning of hidden demons and talents that only ever come out during these kinds of talks. The cast draws out a surprising amount of information about these characters in a very natural dialogue.
Whatever the character’s claimed stance on Elvis may be, when the King himself (Alex McNeill) enters the equation, everything stops. He is a presence, pleasantly southern and disarmingly charming. As he begins to let his own guard down and infiltrates the group, we see him as Elvis the man, not Elvis the myth or legend. His “thank you very much’s” and coiffed hair are iconic and a pleasant sight for Elvis fans everywhere.
As the story rounds out and brings the audience out of Marie’s memory (with a little bit of a tug on our heartstrings for the young Angus we met and loved), they are left with a satisfying feeling of camaraderie with the characters, as though they had sat in that same room themselves. The experience of seeing “Prestwick Elvis” can easily be equated to being granted the opportunity to sit as a fly on the wall while a band of brothers bonds with a legend who merely stopped to refuel in their small town for a moment.