Performers/Creatives reviews – Irvine Welsh’s two plays are exercises in tedium

Embarrassingly limp: George Russo and Perry Benson in Performers.

Not so much theatre shows as exercises in tedium, these new pieces from Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh would never have seen the light of day if they didn’t have his name attached. An audience expecting the skanky wit and vim of Trainspotting will be disappointed by this duo of tired and clumsy plays.

Performers, written with Dean Cavanagh, is potentially the more interesting of the two. Apparently, when making the 1970 movie Performance, which starred Mick Jagger and James Fox, directors Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell wanted to hire real villains to play the gangsters. Their quest for authenticity sees low-life criminals Alf (Perry Benson) and Bert (George Russo) turning up at the production offices. But with slack direction from Nick Moran, it has all the tension of a used teabag. The comic tour de force that is supposed to ensue when a pretentious young assistant director persuades Alf to take off his clothes is embarrassingly limp.

Set in 1969, it would have looked dated and if it had actually been written that year, and – in their own quest for authenticity – Welsh and Cavanagh appear to have copied out a cockney rhyming slang dictionary lock, stock and barrel.

Creatives: bland, slick shininess.
 Creatives: bland, slick shininess. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty

If Performers aims for comic grittiness and misses by a mile, Creatives is all bland, slick shininess; straight out of the Fame mould. It’s a musical, written with Don de Grazia, about a group of would-be songwriters attending a Chicago course run by former punk Paul, whose career has nosedived and whose personal life is complicated.

The students are all stereotypes, ranging from moody goth girl to (bizarrely) a redneck Trump supporter, and the entire thing starts to resemble an audition for the X Factor but with less convincing back stories, until a violent plot twist pushes it into outright melodrama.

The US cast are game, and Laurence Mark Wythe’s music and lyrics cry out for a better vehicle than this cliched attempt to explore the price of creativity and the pressures to sell out for a quick buck. One imagines that is exactly what Welsh has done with these abysmal efforts.

 Performers is at the Assembly Rooms until 27 August. Box office: 0131-623 3030. Creatives is at the Pleasance Courtyard until 28 August. Box office: 0131-556 6550.


India chasing 229 to beat England in Women’s Cricket World Cup final – live!

Anya Shrubsole celebrates after bowling Smrtri Mandhana.

25th over: India 92-2 (Punam 39, Harmanpreet 32). Sciver brought back to replace Marsh. Keeps Punam honest, a decent shout for leg before. It’s going down, and then quickly realise that and don’t review. Mel Jones on radio complimentary of Sarah Taylor’s influence in preventing any wild referrals. Four singles, including another Punam ramp. We’re at the half-way mark. England were 103-3. Don’t yell at me, I know this means nothing. I’m just sharing.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming review – weak webslinger

Spider-Man: Homecoming: ‘bouncy, likable and completely devoid of threat’. Photograph: Allstar/Marvel Studios/Columbia Pictures

Even diehard comic-book movie fans must have noticed by now the glitch in the Avengers universe. Whatever algorithm is used to calculate the perfect ratio of self-satisfied banter to bludgeoning FX has resulted in ever-decreasing variations on a theme. If not quite the same movie, they recycle the same plot points and devices, the same blustering displays of CGI muscle. Deep within the Marvel laboratories, it seems genetic experiments have been taking place as the DNA of the comic-book action flick is spliced with that of other films. Spider-Man: Homecoming is the labradoodle of this cross-genre breeding programme. Part superhero movie, part high-school coming-of-age story, it’s bouncy, likable and completely devoid of threat.

This latest reboot of the webslinger narrative casts Tom Holland as an irrepressible 15-year-old Peter Parker. As eager to please as a puppy, his taste of Avengers action (a cameo at the end of Captain America: Civil War) has left him hungry to right wrongs. So far, more Spider-Boy than man, his ventures have been low-key and the rewards minor (a churro from a nice Dominican lady he helped across the road). But then he stumbles across a crime scene beefed up with some serious alien-sourced weapons tech. And he finds himself on the radar of scissor-winged scavenger the Vulture (Michael Keaton). Meanwhile, in the real world, he struggles with teen angst, high-school social standing and a bruising crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), the unobtainable debate-club beauty.

A deft reveal on the night of the school dance links Peter’s two parallel lives together; but the action climax that follows – a battle fought on the outside of a camouflaged Stark Industries transport plane – is an onslaught of effects so confusing that you forget to worry about the outcome.

In fact, the only moment of real tension in the preview I attended came when my son got his arm wedged in the cup-holder of his chair. Anyone who has ever had to try and prise the arm fat of a panicking child out of a circulation-stopping plastic ring is unlikely to be particularly fazed by the sight of Michael Keatonwearing a beak.