Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Persians

IMG_7545i Liam Brennan, Megan  Tyler, Irene Allan.jpg

A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
23rd-28th April

Script: three-stars.png  Stagecraft: four-stars.png  Performance: four-stars.png

What have the Persians ever done for us?

Well they developed the first modern economy, including the introduction of paper money, instigated the first postal service and invented algebra. But surely all these achievements fade into insignificance, when measured against their contribution to problem solving major decisions. Those determining the outcome had to agree when they were drunk and still agree later, when hung over.

IMG_7552i Meghan Tyler, Liam  Brennan, Irene Allan.jpgIn Tory Ian Wellesley’s Westminster office there’s only Earl Grey, muffins and a political hot potato on offer, when fellow parliamentarians, Kirstin Thompson and Mary Rodgers, join him to discuss a petition in favour of the reintroduction of capital punishment. Agreement proves impossible and in an effort to calm the growing turbulence, Ian breaks out the fortified wine, well any port in a storm. Soon the women are shoes-off drunk and dancing to tunes from the office laptop while Ian struts his stuff to the strains of ‘Macho Man’. Wheels oiled, the ideas on how to handle the tricky petition start to flow fast and thick. There may even be time to sort out Mary’s Northern Ireland too! In vino veritas for sure; what could possibly go wrong?

IMG_7546i Liam Brennan, Irene Allan, Meghan Tyler (1)

The author of the drama, Meghan Tyler, plays Mary, a fiery young DUP member dressed in a crisp white blouse and royal blue trousers that wouldn’t be out of place behind an Ulster, Lambeg drum. Her language is as strong as her fundamentalist belief that ‘Dinosaurs are lies’. Liam Brennan’s Ian is a grey suited Conservative, very much the professional politician, all for consensus – if it makes problems melt away. His voice has the resounding, practised tones and rhythms of chamber debate, in contrast to his circumspect manner with his colleagues. Irene Allan’s Kirstin is power dressed in black with dark hair scraped back from her forehead. Sensible, practical, conscious of what it means to represent Scotland, she’s a politician with an eye on the future.

There are energetic but nuanced performances from all three cast members in this enjoyable, cautionary tale of parliamentary pitfalls. Exit polls say yes.

David G Moffat


Passing Places

Dundee Rep
17th April – 5th May

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png  Performance: four-stars.png

Passing Places is twenty-one years old this year. It says much for the play-writing skill of Stephen Greenhorn that this ‘road movie for the stage’ which first entertained Generation X also had the Millennials laughing out loud at its comic sparkle throughout the opening night at the Dundee Rep.  This wee gem of a play retains not only its wit but the power to engage audiences with issues of Scottish identity, the Scottish experience of class divisions and the clash of the rural and the urban. At heart, though, Passing Places speaks of the divide in each of us between what we have become and what we could be, if we have the courage to take the road less traveled.

DSC_4759 Martin, Emily and Eleanor _ For Press
Small-town boys Brian and Alex embark on a road trip from Motherwell to Thurso in a broken-down Lada, with a stolen surfboard tied to the roof rack. They encounter on the road an assortment of characters who have tumbled their own way north, among them the beautiful and free-spirited Mirren (Eleanor House), who becomes the catalyst for a series of changes for the two callow youth.  In pursuit is Brian’s boss, the owner of the surfboard, the psychopathic Binks, hot for some revenge to extract on thepair’s kneecaps.

Dundee Rep’s revival of this much-loved play evokes the thrill of travelling in a landscape at once strange and yet familiar. Reading from a map the place names of the west coast, Alex enthuses about the magnificence of the Scottish hinterland to an aesthetically illiterate Brian, more intent on the destination than the journey. Actors Ewan Donald and Martin Quinn are physically and comedically effervescent as Brian and Alex. They delightfully riff off each other at points in the dialogue, making for some cracking comedy that hasn’t dated one bit in twenty-one years.

The image of a leather-clad biker rolling into town on a pouffe displayed real comic inventiveness and still makes me laugh to remember

A counterpoint to the sympathetic portrayal of the main characters is provided by Binks, played with real comedic relish by Barrie Hunter. Binks takes the Scottish ‘hard-man’ trope to its absurd (and literally insane) fulfillment, raining down total destruction in his quest for retribution. The image of a leather-clad biker rolling into town on a pouffe displayed real comic inventiveness and still makes me laugh to remember.

DSC_4830 Barry, John and Taqi _ For Press

How well does a twenty-one year old comedy about nineteen-nineties Scots youth finding their futures on the road speak to the present day? Well, they don’t use Google maps to get to where they want to be. I dare say that’s something Generation X still does better – reading a map. But you don’t need a map or even google maps to know when you’re lost. Passing Places still charms because we all feel lost sometimes and there’s no map for that journey. There’s just going further where the road takes you. As a road movie for the stage Passing Places puts a charming Scottish thrill on a well loved genre. Time’s passing hasn’t aged it. There’s not a mobile phone in sight. But hey, who ever gets a decent signal that far out anyway, right?

Mark Mackenzie



IMG_7494i Benny Young and Joyce Falconer.jpg

A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
16th-21st April

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png  Performance: four-stars.png

This week Oran Mor hosts a service of Remembrance, in loving memory of the dearly departed Sandy Alison Munro (1963-2018). Sandy left explicit instructions as to how the occasion should pass-off; this may explain why the traditional Scottish purvey of flaccid, lukewarm sausage rolls was replaced by Scotch pies. There was a full house of the bereaved which would have surely have pleased the deceased. Sandy’s big brother, the Reverend Andrew Munro, tall, dark, slim, like Guinness in a test tube, emceed the event, leading those gathered, through a list of his wee brother’s dubious achievements, while photographic slides of Sandy in happier times (obvs) appeared on a screen above the coffin.

IMG_7487 i Benny Young Joyce Falconer.jpg

Rob Drummond’s play is a dark comedy about the life and hard times of Sandy Munroe, a man who found joy difficult to come by in life so is determined to find some in death. He has left detailed plans that involve his brother Andrew (Benny Young) singing a pastiche of Candle in the Wind as part of the Eulogy. Try as the good Reverend may to put a gloss on Sandy’s life, the truth will out (including an obsession with a certain red headed, BBC Scotland, news presenter). Former wife Anne (Joyce Falconer) is vilified as a rank bad-yin for legging it to Cyprus with a sailor but there are two sides to every story and she is adamant hers will be heard. Callum Cuthbertson provides Sandy’s video message from beyond the grave.

IMG_7459i Benny Young.jpg

There are songs, plenty of belly-laugh moments and more than a few buried truths to keep the audience engaged.

Young’s face is wonderfully immobile and gloomy while delivering hilarious stories about the past but his long, energetic arms and legs eat up the stage, taking him out of I.M. Jolly territory. Falconer gives us a more solid, determined character. A formidable woman, a rock to build on, or crash against, the choice is yours. There are songs, plenty of belly-laugh moments and more than a few buried truths to keep the audience engaged. The pace did seem to slow at the end, where perhaps a bit of judicious dialogue trimming would not have gone amiss. That said, dead good.

David G Moffat