Elaine C Smith in Mrs Puntila and her man Matti

Mrs Puntila and her man Matti

Bawdy, brilliant, glorious and gallus. Mrs Puntila and her man Matti is an achingly funny, finely crafted and played joy.

Denise Mina brings Brecht to Scotland with a sizzling, sparky and sexily socialist adaptation which is an utter delight in every way.

The earthy, witty language of Brecht is given new life in a lively, gravelly, gallus lowland Scots which sticks close to the spirit of the original, but gives it a raw, distinctly Caledonian spirit.

I studied, and loved studying Brecht’s work in some detail when I was at school some time in the last century, and referencing the original translations from the 1950s, I was immediately struck that there must be a new translation that adapter Denise Mina has worked from. And there is - with Susan Hingley responsible for a literal translation from the original German as raw material for Mina’s writing genius.

Mrs Puntila and her man Matti

Mrs Puntila and her man Matti

There is a Shakespearian bawdiness and edge to this that’s beautifully echoed in the brilliant stage sets, which look like something a Russian constructivist would create after drinking heavily and pillaging a victorian-era Highland estate.

The language is earthy: it’s a while since an Edinburgh audience heard questions asked on stage like “Who’s this cunt?” but the f’s and c’s are not there to shock, just for emphasis, and the language throughout is brilliant, lively, and also highly nuanced where need be.

Elaine C Smith is utterly magnificent in her role as the eponymous Mrs. Puntila, swaying between her affable drunken ‘normal’ and aberrant states of bad-natured sobriety. And her man Matti is a brilliant dead-pan foil to her mood swings, with Steven McNicoll quite superb in portraying Matti’s long-suffering, phlegmatic and cynical nature.

This is brilliantly funny, and the cast all deliver astonishingly nuanced and comically adept performances, often playing up to four different roles as the action moves on. Some appear rather as bold caricatures initially, and I appreciated this nuance from the director as a nod to Brecht's beloved use of audience alienation. 'I am off to do some acting' is a s good an entrance line as you'll get.

There’s a real beauty in the movements on the stage, invisible badminton, circus-like gasps at the brutally shocking opening knife-throwing scene, and an energy and rawness to the musical performances that really raise this piece of theatre to a pinnacle.

Mrs Puntila and her man Matti

Mrs Puntila and her man Matti - Steven McNicoll-and Joanne McGuinness

It’s bloody fantastic to watch. It’s witty, sly, and Brecht speaks knowingly across time about the rights of workers in this zero-contract century through Mina’s superb adaptation. Mina also slips in some magnificent and memorable broadsides to burn down food banks, pushes against the payday loan wheel of debt, and what is laughingly called the 'gig' economy.

The dual nature of Puntila, a Janus sober and drunk, is at the core of this piece, and spectacularly able performances from Joanne McGuinness as Eva, the daughter being pushed upmarket socially to marry Richard Conlon’s convincingly awful upper-class Attaché underpin and strengthen the story.

There is a brilliantly ‘Brecht’ moment when the house lights come up as one actor breaks the fourth wall and addresses the lighting technician. Ross duly puts the lights up, and then five women cast off any ‘acting’ roles to tell stark, dark stories directly to the audience.

It is deeply uncomfortable for the audience to listen to these stories, being stared in the face by these women, and the searing impact that the play delivers in this red-hot moment is testament to the skills and work of the entire ensemble, with the lighting, sound, casting, movement and direction all combining to make a startling piece of theatre,

Book your tickets today to see this - there’s a link right below. It will surely sell out. It certainly deserves to. It is a pure joy to witness this. To miss this piece of spectacular, very Scottish, and very European piece of theatre genius would be a tragedy. Have a drink in your hand from the beginning, and you'l love this even more.

★★★★★  5 stars


28 February - 21 March 2020

£10 PREVIEWS, 7.30pm
Friday 28, Saturday 29 February and Monday 2 March
Preview tickets on sale from 27 January

EVENINGS, 7.30pm
Tuesday - Saturday
£16 - £33

MATINEES from 4 March, 2pm
Wednesday and Saturday
£14 - £29

Running time: 2 hrs 40 mins with 20 min Interval (approximate)

Creative Learning Events

Mrs Puntila and her man Matti




Plus +

  • Smith is spectacular
  • Great ensemble performance
  • Glorious, Gallus

About David Petherick

David Petherick is the owner and publisher of edinburghfestival.org and was born in, and lives, in Edinburgh. He is a writer, marketer and tweeter and is also a LinkedIn Profile Doctor. Follow @edinburghfest for festival news and updates and @petherick for personal news and views.

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