Wheel life stories

Sick Transit

by Rachel Halliburton

Three years ago, a small unassuming drama starring two men and a coffin suddenly became one of the Fringe's hottest tickets when it won the Granada Media Comedy Writing Award.

Danny's Wake marked the writing debut of the comedian Jim Sweeney, whose adamant denial that he is a playwright seems to be challenged by his latest beautifully measured paean to the faded dreams of wannabe rock-stars, with little but spreading waistlines and a bottle of Tequila to console them.

Sweeney himself plays an accountant with the doormat personality of a "don't-mind-me" Englishman, who has joined up with two old friends to reignite his Z-grade ambitions to be a rock legend. The Sick Transit of the title is the van which ferries them to various limp corporate gigs. The jokes are sewn so skilfully into the script, that it is only on reaching the punchline that you realise that Sweeney has been setting it up for more than 10 minutes.

A gag involving hypoglycaemia and some bananas is so complexly plotted it could constitute a play all on its own.

Sweeney is joined by veteran Comedy Store comedians Steve Steen and Stephen Frost, whose confidence in maintaining the deliberate deadpan effect of his writing allows this to be far more than a comedy. As in Danny's Wake, Sick Transit's skill lies in capturing the wistfulness of lost youth, and in confronting the heart-wrenching perplexity of sacrificing dreams to become an adult.

With so many well-known comedians turning to drama at this year's festival, the conclusion is irrefutable. Theatre is the new rock'n' roll.

Showing at the Gilded Balloon until 26 August. Box office: 0131 226 2151.

Associated Newspapers Ltd., 13 August 2002
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