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  • Sophie Wheeler

Review: The Paint Job

Rating: ★★★★

The Paint Job, directed by Alice Humphries, is aptly situated amongst the walls of paintings in ECA’s cafe, The Wee Red Bar, which is at once captivating and immersive. It is here that four Edinburgh students, spearheaded by the strong and assertive Natalie (Connie Bailie), plan a heist of questionable success, with the students’ secret motivations for the money a theme which permeates throughout.


In a daring bid for riches, and a general disdain for the art world and its value, Natalie teams up with her friend Mary (Verity Mann) and Mary’s boyfriend James (George Laing), along with art gallery security Saul (Fergus Whitson). They hatch a plan to steal a painting during its exhibition, and disguise James as a celebrity to gain access. Amidst the revelry, they are successful in taking the painting without tripping the lasers or alerting attention, only to discover James has been live-streaming the whole thing. In the chaos, emotions run high, leading to conflict, reconciliation, and the ignition of romantic sparks.


While the plot’s coherence may occasionally falter, getting wound up around tangential dialogue and losing pace, the production compensates with its ingenious use of physical comedy, injecting moments of levity and resonance that never fail to garner laughs from the audience. Particularly noteworthy is the masquerade ball scene, infused with the familiar charm of commedia dell’arte, which at once adds depth and richness to the performance, and showcases Humphries’ impressive choreography.


Amidst the ensemble cast, Laing’s portrayal of James stands out particularly. Embodying the typical ‘golden retriever’ boyfriend of Mary, Laing is adept at portraying both sides of James’ character; an excitable friend with a devil-may-care attitude to life, and also someone who is struggling with family issues underneath the surface.


Another standout is the technical elements of the production (managed by Freya Game, Samuel Gormley and Leon Lee). The lighting and soundscape are brilliant without being excessive, and envelop the audience in what is already a very intimate venue. The play is dynamic, and production works hard to have scenes blend seamlessly from one to the next without awkward changes or waiting times.


Though the end felt slightly rushed in an attempt to tie up all narratives, with Natalie and Mary’s friendship hastily reconciled, and Saul and Mary’s relationship kindled very suddenly after the heist, The Paint Job remains a captivating theatrical endeavour under Humphries’ direction. Successfully incorporating elements of comedy, drama, and suspense, the production offers an engaging exploration into the world of art, the nature of friendship, and navigating tough times while at university. The play has definitely left a lasting impression on me, showcasing the talent and creativity of its cast and crew.

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