REVIEW by Penny Simpson

NWR Issue 102

Small Scale Tour

by Caroline Ross

Little love is lost amongst the artists fighting for the spotlight in Caroline Ross’ novel Small Scale Tour. Set in Newcastle between the 1970s and the new millennium, it follows the mixed fortunes of actors belonging to a small-scale touring company, Kicking Theatre. The narrator is one of the company’s actors, Ham Johnson, and it is through his eyes that we learn of a tragedy that has broken apart a venture once poised on the verge of success.

The novel veers between prose and play text, an uneasy mix which disrupts the narrative’s flow and offers only a heavy-handed symbolism to the writer’s key themes. This is a pity, because Ross has a keen eye for observational comedy, best enjoyed in the prose sections where Ham’s sardonic reflections on things theatrical are contrasted with the colourful wisdom dispensed by the manager of his ‘day job’, corner shop proprietor Mr Najib Khan. A refugee from Afghanistan, he steps smartly out of his secondary character role thanks to his unorthodox interviewing technique and his encyclopaedic knowledge of cultural history...

Penny Simpson is an MA student at the Human Rights Centre, Essex University. Her novel, The Deer Wedding, is published by Alcemi. Her website can be found here.

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