Search Results for moffat

A Change in Management

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
October 15-20

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Billy is the warehouse manager of a stationery supply company who has obviously missed the in-service day when it was explained that potentially difficult dilemmas, should be pushed up or down the chain of command but never tackled personally. Janet the head of HR knows exactly what to do when Billy phones and tries to pass a human resources problem her way. She emails him the company’s staff policy document and invites him to interpret it with a view to resolving what she sees as, his problem. Janet, we feel, has never, ever missed an in-service day.

Billy has a second in command, gobby Lydia, who knows exactly what Billy should do about a controversial piece of information that’s been received, regarding a worker in the loading department; Billy should listen to, and follow her intemperate advice to the letter. Fortunately there’s Mary, a more moderate voice in the office, dispensing politically correct good sense. Exposed to these clashing opinions, the jokey, congenial manager has to choose a course of action that won’t reflect badly on the company and himself. A wrong decision, an ill-timed YouTube link or an inopportune word to the press, any of these could spell disaster. The important thing is not to panic…

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Steven McNicoll’s Billy is the kind of big-hearted, stalwart employee found in every company. He does his job conscientiously, without any machinations, enjoys a laugh with his fellow workers but is unprepared for the big moral issue that has just dropped onto his unwelcoming, managerial lap. We like him. He enjoys being popular but this diminishes his authority when he attempts keep a certain member of his staff in line.

Nicola Roy’s Lydia is all presumptive, potty-mouthed opinion. Her arms, when not gripped across her chest nursing her next irascible barb, are thrust forward stabbing an opinionated finger. When making a point (which she frequently does) her ponytailed head stretches the tendons on her neck as if she were a ski jumper leaning into a leap. She is not a woman riven by uncertainty.

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Helen MacKay’s Mary brings a more educated, reasoned view to the proceedings. She is prepared to think things through and is open to the possibility of doubt. Her informed opinion (she Googles) tries to moderate the strident excesses of her hot headed colleague. David Gerow has written a comedy drama (farce-like at times) that tackles disparate reactions to an unseen co-worker accused of a controversial crime. It is a sure-footed piece of writing that finds its all too believable humour in each employee’s efforts to do what they consider is the right thing, for the right reasons.
Worth stepping into this office.

David G Moffat

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The Last Picture Show

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sept 8th – Sept 13th

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World War One saw the invention of unprecedented ways to kill and mutilate troops in unimaginable numbers. Many of those seriously injured survived through modern medical treatment but new battles lay ahead as they struggled to find employment and acceptance back home. Morag Fullarton’s drama tells the story of one such man, blinded and disfigured in France.

We are introduced to the primitive glories of the Picture Palace in Dunoon where a Charlie Chaplin silent film is being enhanced by a heavily pregnant, in-house piano player’s musical improvisations. There’s a watery break in proceedings which leaves the cinema in need of a new accompanist but not right away because the projector has broken too. This is of little concern to wee Willy, a boy barred from the delights of the Picture Palace for sneaking in without paying. He’s playing soldiers, dispatching the enemy while disparaging Kaiser Bill in song, when he comes across Bob, a discharged soldier, blinded and wearing a tin mask to hide the damage done to his face. The sound of an explosion takes us back in time to France where an uninjured Bob and his Aussie pal Billy deal with the realities of trench life. Then we are back in Dunoon. Then we are back in France. Then we are back in Dunoon. Then we are back in France. Then finally back in Dunoon (that’s a lot of leaping back and forth for a lunch time) where thankfully the play becomes much less frenetic and delivers a slower paced, more satisfying musical conclusion.

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Helen McAlpine should be mentioned in dispatches, not least for the number of characters she plays-
Elspeth an expectant pianist.
Jessie a formidable manageress of the Picture Palace.
Marge a field hospital Nurse.
Camille a young French girl.
Betty a young girl from Dunoon.
Charlie Chaplin (as portrayed by Betty).
Of the above, Jessie is the strongest character. A redoubtable woman not overtly sympathetic to Bob’s plight but prepared to give him a chance to show what he can do.
Matthew Tomlinson’s Bob has a quiet dignity. The mask he wears to cover his ravaged face has a disturbing neutral quality, robbing him of all visible emotions. His passion was, and salvation may be, music.
Matthew Campbell’s Willy McCallum is an impish boy whose starry-eyed visions of war come up against its cold reality. He has the irrepressible optimism of youth, which he realises can be put to good use by helping someone else achieve their goal. Campbell also plays Bob’s Australian pal in France.

Morag Fullarton, a veteran of 5 PPP productions, including the excellent ‘Casablanca, the Gin Joint Cut’ has a rather good story to tell about a man returning from war, damaged on the inside and out trying to find his way forward. The chase and slapstick Charlie Chaplin action on the picture house screen, contrasts vividly with the stills of soldiers at the front and perhaps proceedings should have remained in Dunoon, as the scene switches to France do little to advance the main narrative. On target at the beginning and end but misfires in the middle.

David G Moffat

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It Wisnae Me

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sept 1st – Sept 6th

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In Scotland around 40% of the population carry the MC1R recessive variant gene, which results in a world-beating 13% of Scots, actually having red hair. Wha’s like us? Even the county’s favourite soft drink, Irn Bru, is ginger! So it should come as no surprise, when at the start of Allan Bissett’s play, the first primitive Scot (Ali Watt) who crouched and exchanged abusive screeches with the first primitive Englishman (Andrew John Tait) to the stains of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, is wearing a Tartan Tammy with a straggly orange wig attached.

What follows is a sobering, unvarnished examination of not-so-bonnie Scotland’s involvement in the slave trade and its complicity in building the British Empire by the subjugation of other, less developed countries through the plunder of their raw materials. Few punches are pulled as Scotland (inspiringly depicted as a track suited teenager) whines and gurns its innocence in the face of a deluge of unsavoury truths. Scotland’s accuser is Big Bad Bowler-Hatted, England, who offers a fairly comprehensive list of unflattering epithets for its neighbour, many of them uncomfortably accurate.

Bissett is aware of the irony of two white men on stage discussing exploitation, so wisely introduces a young black woman (Danielle Jam) to explain the Golden Triangle that saw goods shipped from Southampton, Bristol and of course Glasgow, to Africa, where millions of the indigenous population where enslaved and transported to America. The third leg of the journey saw Sugar, cotton and tobacco sent back to Britain to be processed in industrial towns including, once again, Glasgow. It is Jam’s composed reasoned voice that draws attention to the enlightened work carried out by the Glasgow Emancipation Society in the early 1800s.

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Watt’s Jock is a lively concoction of self delusion and historic grouses. He is a deliberate caricature of the jokey lad imbued with the notion that Scots are friendly, welcoming people, because they can laugh at themselves. His knowledge of Scotland’s past is heavy on the injuries received by his country but light on those it inflicted on others. Tait’s George is less of a nationally identifiable character, more a social conscience, not unlike one of the ghosts from A Christmas Carol, pointing out unpalatable facts that need to be acknowledged before Jock and Scotland can move on.

The subject of a country’s history and national scruples when dealing with the remnants of imperialism in street names and civic sculptures is a topical one that deserves debate. Bissett’s play makes a worthy and at times amusing contribution to this discussion.

David G Moffat

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Tipping the Hat

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 24-29 

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There is a discernible line of English eccentricity runs from the topsy-turvy wordplay of WS Gilbert, through the cheeky sophistication of Noel Coward to the humorous quotidian lyrics of Michael Flanders. The latter, in partnership with friend and composer Donald Swann, produced a string of comic songs that delighted live audiences throughout the 1950s and 60s.

Flanders and Swann are the subject of this witty production (written and directed by John Bett) that sparkles with some of their most celebrated collaborations, “The Hippopotamus Song”, “The Gasman Cometh”, “The Gnu Song” and many, many more. The stage is set like a Victorian parlour with red velvet drapes, dried flowers and a grand piano but any formality is immediately subverted by sound problems with the keyboard and the affectionate teasing of the performers as they introduce each other to the audience.

Both actors appear as themselves, verbally sparring in a genteel fashion as they tell the story of Flanders and Swann. When called upon to perform a song (which they do exceedingly well) a bearded John Jack takes the Flanders’ part while Gordon Cree sings and tinkles the ivories wearing a diffident Swann’s round Billy Bunter glasses. This is a clever device that takes the duo beyond mere tribute status and allows Jack in particular, to bring a frantic physical comedy to the proceedings using a variety of props, as well as a bit of gesticulating, Scottish luvvie banter.

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The songs may be familiar but their performance is fresh and lively. And there’s politics too. An ironic discourse delivered on Dr Beeching’s massacre of the rail system, followed by a rendering of “Slow Train”, listing some of the stations that came under his axe, turns out to be a genuinely moving lament. Another surprising gem is Swann’s original tune to “A Red, Red Rose” delivered warmly in a soft bass baritone by Cree. With plenty of apposite details on the lives of the two entertainers sandwiched between the humour and iconic songs, this is a show that enlightens and entertains in equal measure.

A top piece of hat tipping, brimming with fun.

David G Moffat

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The Lottery Ticket

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 17-22 

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Imagine you have access to a time machine. You pop back to the beginning of the 20th century and happen to bump into mega-rich philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. You tell him a bit about yourself, how you can contact anyone in the world, pretty much instantly and by pressing a button send them a message, photo or movie. You can also talk to them and you can see each other in real time as you chat. You might mention your foreign holidays, car, the pineapples, bananas, grapes that are available to you in the supermarket all year round… and so much more. What Mr Carnegie would want know is, how many millions are you worth.

Salih, a Kurdish asylum seeker and his Polish pal Jacek, don’t feel much like millionaires, sleeping in a bin shelter in the neat back court of a block of houses (a terrific piece of set design by Jonathan Scott and Gemma Patchett). Breakfast is a banana from Waitrose’s trash. As they clean up their litter Salih finds a lottery ticket which could herald a change of fortune, especially when Rhona from the flats bursts out the back door cursing the problem she has with overflowing effluence in her toilet. The men see an opportunity. Can they fix it? Yes they can. They’ll do it by the book – literally, a do it yourself volume Jacek runs to get from the library. A pipe is blocked but they have access to a sledge hammer, what could possibly go wrong?

Nebli Basani’s Salih is a born story teller weaving fate and faith, omens and realities into unlikely probabilities. At times he steps out of the action to stand front of stage and tell tales from his harrowing past. Under a single spotlight, his tall elegant presence is endearing and commanding.

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Steven Duffy’s Jacek is a more down to earth, everyman character who just wants to work for a fair wage and send home money to the wife he loves and misses.
Helen Mallon’s Rhona is a no-nonsense, feisty Glaswegian woman who has a graphic design business to run and deadlines to meet. When not screaming at the flushing neighbours contributing to her toxic problem, she has sympathy for the men but more importantly just wants them to do the job before her important clients turn up. She’ll give them a chance but they better not mess up.

There is an interesting dichotomy at the heart Donna Franceschild’s moving play. While it would require a heart of stone not to sympathise with the plight of these two decent blokes struggling to subsist in a foreign country, the scam they feel obliged to commit would certainly leave the victim of it with a less than favourable impression of both men, and perhaps by extension, all immigrants and asylum seekers.

One thing is for sure, those lucky enough to live in this country, have a home, a reasonable income and access to free medical care, have already won the lottery of life, several times over. Buying a ticket for this excellent, nuanced drama would not be a gamble.

David G Moffat

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Tap Dancing with Jean-Paul Sartre

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 10-15 

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“All human actions are equivalent and all are on principle doomed to failure.” So said pipe smoking, deep thinker, Jean-Paul Sartre. But, as is often the case with the philosophically inclined, his advice is for giving, not taking. When it comes to searching for love, failure (or Simone de Beauvoir) is not to be contemplated.

Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn are in Paris rehearsing dance routines for the movie Funny Face. They’re giving some serious thought to the nature of the alluring deception that is their chosen profession, when they stumble across a guitar strumming, quote spouting, Jean- Paul Sartre who engages them in intellectual discourse and a bit of existential improvisation. The philosopher’s high-minded musings go out the fenetre, when faced with Audrey’s gamine beauty and he pursues her with Wile E. Coyote determination. Although elegant Fred Astaire is at hand to keep an eye on the Frenchman’s amorous intentions, he needn’t worry; cool, chic Miss Hepburn has the situation under control.

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Darren Brownlie’s Fred Astaire taps and sings with boundless energy, aptly demonstrating that true freedom comes, not from theoretical pondering on one’s derriere but through laborious and diligent practice at your craft. Those who are familiar with Brownlie’s work will be pleased to note there is room for some of the broader, physical humour (cue the giant moustache) at which he also excels. In addition to his own splendid performance, he choreographed the play.

Ashley Smith’s Audrey Hepburn is vulnerable yet full of graceful strength. Her scene as a piece of living film, slowed down, sped up, rewound, is a particular delight. She gives us two different faces of Audrey Hepburn, pixie ingénue and tiara lady in the little black dress. Kevin Lennon’s Jean-Paul Sartre is an utterly believable, shameless cerebral chancer prepared to summon whatever words it will take to ingratiate himself with the object of his desire. He is a champagne communist whose redeeming feature is self awareness. He knows for sure that God, if he exists, loves a trier.

The direction in James Runcie’s excellent play is first class with back projections of locations cleverly extending the dimensions of the stage. While the show invites us to enjoy song, dance and wit (and we do) it also slips in a deeper question. Is choosing a role to play and performing it, the ultimate existential act? A great piece of theatre you’d be out of your mind to miss.

David G Moffat

five-stars

Outside In

 

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
3rd-8th May

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Jay, a distressed young man in tartan pyjama bottoms and floppy slippers, paces anxiously while awaiting the return of his mother with the milk he desperately needs for his late supper of Rice Krispies. The agoraphobia that won’t let him leave the house is reinforced by a succession of bleak reports on the TV news. What the nervous Jay doesn’t need, is a hand wiggling through the letter box like a horizontal Lady of the Lake, holding not Excalibur, but an automatic pistol that drops with a clunk to the floor. Soon Coco, an apparently aggressive youth is pounding at the door, demanding and gaining entry to the flat – and there’s still no sign of mammy and the milk. Could things get any worse? Well on the plus side, local police officer Kayleigh, who is on a shots-fired case and hungry, can take her Rice Krispies without milk. She does have a few questions though, that both of the guys might struggle to answer.

Christian Ortega’s Jay and Martin Quinn’s Coco are a delightful pair of seemingly mismatched characters that find they have more in common than they think. As they bounce hilarious, perfectly timed, verbal misunderstandings off each other an unlikely bond is built that softens the would-be gangster Coco, and toughens the stay-at-home Jay. Their musings about the possible ways of eating soup without a bowl, straight off the table, is a discussion Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon would have lapped-up.
Katie Barnett’s officer Kayleigh is a good natured, well grounded cop who knows Coco has ‘previous’ and works slowly but surely to unravel the case. Not short on dry humour, she opines that “Nobody should be in a gang that doesn’t have a tree house.”

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Chris Grady has written a comedy drama as bright as officer Kayleigh’s high vis jacket. With plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to keep the audience entertained, the dialogue is sharp and fresh, the characters funny and rounded. A highly entertaining play well worth getting out of the house to see.

David G Moffat

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Losing the Rag

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Aug 27 – Sept 1st

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Newspapers, especially the local variety, have been under the cosh for some time now as circulation falls and advertising moves from printed paper to pixelated screen. It would seem, with publications big or small, the medium is the message or as a succinct blogger might put it, Gutenberg … 0 Berners-Lee … 1. This is certainly the case with the Avondale Advertiser where Derek (Gerry Mulgrew) a stressed-out, old-school editor, is under pressure to boost digital ratings and avoid staff cuts. The 34 year veteran of journalism prowls his office despairing at the inaccuracies that litter his publication. With the newspaper’s owners, Mental Mickey the local junior football team manager and possibly Kim Jong-un on his case, he is a man with a strong-tea habit, feeling the strain.

Perhaps salvation lies with his second in command Susan (Louise Ludgate) who started journalism in the days of clattering typewriters and fag-fug newsrooms. She’s been working for some time on an exclusive involving a politician’s dodgy expenses. Could a financial scandal be the big story that saves the wee paper and secures jobs? There’s more than a hint of arrested development in the third member of the team, young Barry (Martin Donaghy) who hurtles to work on a BMX bike, headphone-cans clamped to his ears. He’s a broad-strokes, funny-photo sort of journo, with little idea of the consequences of getting the facts wrong. Yet might his youthful insouciance and social media savvy, trigger the online hits his paper needs or is his ‘Deadpool’ T-shirt an ominous prediction of the fate awaiting the press in all community newspapers?

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Alan Muir’s play takes an amusing look at the troubles facing traditional journalism when it has to compete with wacky web content for site hits. Although free online material is an issue, the main problem this fictional newspaper seems to have, is the incompetence of staff who fail to notice the numerous errors and mix-ups that pepper the publication. Injudicious quotes, misplaced adverts, wrongly captioned photographs; these faults are not caused by internet rivals. Maybe that’s the message – lower the standards of traditional journalism far enough and you get the equivalent of what dubious cyberspace has to offer.

Not a headliner but a fair start to Oran Mor’s new season of lunchtime plays.

David G Moffat

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The Vampire Clinic

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
28th May – 2nd June

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You may have speculated why appointments with doctors in surgeries or hospital clinics, never seem to keep to schedule. Why is it you always have to sit around for ages? Is it a case of overworked staff and too little time? Or is it a deliberate ploy by the NHS, to give waiting patients the opportunity to get to know each other, to share detailed descriptions of ailments, to exchange life stories including the current state of conjugal interactions… and pick up new friends? Genius or what!

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Findlay (William McBain) has plenty to contemplate as he sits in a bleak waiting room surrounded by Health Service flyers warning about the symptoms of heart disease. Sadie (Barbara Rafferty) has been here before and she’s come to terms with the changes a stroke can bring to your life. She tells us, one night she “went to bed a warrior and woke up a worrier”. She recognises the fear in Findlay and is determined to cheer him up with some breezy, Glasgow, heart-attack, banter. As his story moves from grim descriptions of the night of his seizure and the effects of his condition, to Pythonesque flights of fancy, he and hot blooded Sadie find they have more in common than a medical condition requiring Warfarin.

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Rafferty’s Sadie is literally, a survivor, soliloquising about the nature of her stroke in some detail, explaining the changes it rent in her brain, the split she lives with, which on occasion, lets another woman occupy her head. That said she is determined to put a positive spin, or at least wobble, on whatever challenges life throws at her. McBain’s Findlay is less proactive, still finding it hard to believe what has happened to him and concerned about what kind of future awaits. Both actors seemed to struggled with their dialogue on occasions which the charitable might put down to characterisation.

Peter McDougal has written a dark comedy that doesn’t shy away from the stark consequences of what can happen to relationships after illness. But the humour is broad and unrefined, sounding at times as if it belongs to an earlier decade.

Fails to get the blood pumping.

David G Moffat

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The First Dance

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
14th-19th May

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Real men don’t watch, top chick-flick, Dirty Dancing. They may have sat in a room when the DVD was playing but they were not looking. Most probably their thoughts were about something entirely masculine, like the sweaty, raw, grappling, physicality of a scrum at rugby. This could be a problem for Rhoda as she plans the ‘first dance’ at her upcoming wedding, because fiancé Terry is an oval ball enthusiast and a bit of a man’s man, not too keen on Terpsichore. To realise her big day’s dream of recreating the leaping finale in the 1980s film, she seeks the assistance of dance tutor Gavin. His theatrical posturing is not to Terry’s taste and the latter displays his homophobia by directing a shocking epithet at the instructor (cue sharp intake of breath from the audience). Regardless of this, a determined Rhoda will have her way. But there’s another problem, due to their strict religious beliefs, the couple cannot engage in anything involving close proximity, until after they’ve exchanged wedding vows. Adaptable Gavin will have to partner each separately. In this case it takes three to tango; he will be Patrick Swayze’s ‘Johnny’ for Rhoda… and Jennifer Grey’s ‘Baby’ for Terry.

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Darren Brownlie’s Gavin is a versatile delight, whether gathering himself in grief, sorrowfully owning the silences, or twisting, flexing, bending (has the man no ligaments) while delivering waspish retorts to any slights. Jo Freer’s Rhoda is the kind of woman who wears the trousers. Not only that, she keeps the Wedding Fund bank card and its PIN number, in the pocket of those trousers. She envisions a precise, fundamental future for herself and the man she hopes to create. Think Lady Macbeth but without the milky kindness. Daniel Cahill’s Terry is caught up in events, struggling with doubts about his upcoming marriage, trying to realise exactly who he is. A solid fortress of a man anxious not to have his drawbridge lowered.

Martin McCormick’s play, a satisfying mixture of the serious and comic, entertains right through to its uplifting conclusion. You’ll have the time of your life.

David G Moffat

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