This production of Iain Crichton Smith’s final play, Lazybed, comes direct from West End Productions in Albuquerque via Zoom. Murdo, a middle aged crofter, has taken to his bed despite their being nothing physically wrong with him.
It remains a treat to join in the work of other countries to see their digital content. Tonight we are over the pond joining a matinee stream of this sharp Scottish black comedy.
Murdo, a self-declared metaphysicist, is looked after by his ailing mother. In bed, he is visited by the voice of the Devil and the amiable personage of Death. There is a neighbour who has no time for him, and a lady, Judith, who loves him. Other characters are his brother, the minister, a specialist, and an insurance man.
Crichton Smith’s text is Kafkaesque at times. It is a darkly amusing comedy of errors with moments which make a viewer laugh out loud. Mundo starts as an unsympathetic character, but a moment of trauma forces him to re-evaluate what is important in life.
West End Productions specialise in the work of UK and Irish authors. It shows in the care and engagement with the text and accents of the characters in Lazybed. Despite a few early teething problems in the Zoom broadcast, the play mostly moved without interruption or glitches. The performances more than made up for a lack of background or props. The infamous blue vase which is key to a couple of scenes did make an appearance, but that’s all.
While Lazybed is often staged with actors doubling up in minor roles, here we see a full cast. I particularly enjoyed seeing Robert Shaw-Smith’s Murdo and Judd Farris’s Death bonding over whiskey and friendly discussion, while Joanna Daniel and Merritt C Glover made telling impacts in their brief roles as Neighbour and Kant.
With many interesting points to make on what might be described as the “meaning of life”, Crichton Smith’s absurdist play chooses to pull us up short now and then, as the central character’s “holy fool” spars with a pragmatic grim reaper who is capable both of random acts of violence and thoughtful musing on mortality.
Director Levi Gore keeps the visual tricks to a minimum, focusing instead on the human themes which cut through the weird premise of a man who spends his life in bed. The minister is caught in the contradiction of “suffer little children”. The devil cuts through Murdo’s athiesm. Death teases the insurance man (“you couldn’t afford to insure me, is the short answer”)
Lazybed plays at a hundred minutes straight through, with scene changes signalled with music and title cards (“the next morning”, etc.). This play is engrossing and a good choice for the format: adapting well to individual windows on a screen.
Header image credit: Caitlin Hecsh