Bits ‘N’ Pieces

Aug 24 2023 | By More

★★★★☆     Timely

Leith Arches (Venue 324): Fri 11 – Sat 26 Aug 2023
Review by Tom Ralphs

Saltire Sky Theatre’s revival of their 2022 Fringe hit Bits ‘N’ Pieces at Leith Arches is a timely reminder of the lives and deaths of the real people that lie behind the statistics around drug deaths.

It is made even more notable this week, when the latest Scottish Government figures for drug deaths have been published and news reports seem torn between celebrating the fall in the figures and condemning the Government for the fact that they are still the highest in Europe.

Jonny Tulloch and Calum Manchip. Pic: Saltire Sky Theatre.

As the play starts, the Leith Arches is done out to resemble a warehouse party rather than a theatre. Audience, cast and crew members wander around a dancefloor, with lights strobing the floor. Upstairs a DJ (Samuel Lee Johnston) surveys the scene and chooses tracks to play. It immediately takes you into the rave culture moment that’s at the heart of the story.

Out of this, Dougie (Sandy Bain), Tommy (Jonny Tulloch) and Matty (Calum Manchip) emerge. They are typical 25 year old working class lads, contemplating what their lives have and haven’t amounted to, and torn between feeling older than they are or being scared of all the years that stretch out before them if this is as good as it gets.


Going back through their teenage years, they laugh, get drunk, take drugs, get STDs, and live the life that Jarvis Cocker wrote about and Greek art college students didn’t understand. Only Matty has any ambition to escape the fate that birth handed him, but this proves impossible, as his final night before leaving to fight in Afghanistan seals the fate of the three friends.

Bain, Tulloch and Manchip complement each other perfectly to seem like life-long friends. Bain invests Dougie with a sort of Bez like quality. He is the one who lacks ambition or anger at the hand he’s been dealt; the member of the group who seems to do very little but is also the one that the others couldn’t live without.

Sandy Bain. Pic: Saltire Sky Theatre

As Tommy, Tulloch is aware of his situation at all times, frustrated with his job, but aware that he has one and needs one. He is living the life he can with a suppressed anger that makes his eventual, ill-considered, decision to speak out all the more believable.

Manchip, as Mitch, is simultaneously part of his surroundings but also distant from it, escaping from where he grew up but also continually being drawn back to it and the childhood friend’s he can go 18 months without seeing.

The cast is completed by Christie Russell-Brown who plays Dougie’s mum Kim and Matty’s mum Mandy, switching easily between the hard working nurse trying to better herself, and the prim restrained woman who believes she, and her son, are already better than the others.


Nathan Scott-Dunn and Sands Stirling’s direction and the naturalism in Scott-Dunn’s dialogue ensures that the audience are always in the room with the people on the stage, watching real lives being lived rather than scripted versions being acted out.

The contrast between the drug high and the long comedown is clear to see, as is the appeal of the escape that drugs seem to offer. It’s Trainspotting without the artificial escape routes or the pseudo glamorisation of drug culture, and incredibly effective because of this.

Running time: one hour and 30 minutes (no interval)
Leith Arches (Ground Level), 6 Manderston Street, EH6 8LY (Venue 324)
Friday 11 – Saturday 26 August2023
Daily (not 17, 24): 7.30pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Review of the 2022 production of Bits ‘N’ Pieces: ★★★★☆ Electric

Saltire Sky links

Twitter: @SaltireSkyTC
Facebook: @saltireskytheatre
Instagram: @saltireskytheatre


Christie Russell-Brown. Pic: Saltire Sky Theatre



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