PPP: Eulogy

Apr 25 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆    Surprising

Traverse Theatre: Tue 24 – Sat 28 April 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin

Rob Drummond surpasses even his own reputation for theatrical twisting and turning with the memorable Eulogy, an invitation to A Play, A Pie and A Pint’s lunchtime memorial service for the late Sandy Munro.

The set-up is all there, particularly with Benny Young brilliantly cast as Sandy’s long-suffering older brother, Andy. Yet director David Overend lets it drift, not getting his two actors to play it straight enough for it to succeed as it might.

Benny Young. Pic: Leslie Black

Which is a disappointment as this could all be so perfect. The sombre Young, in his minister’s outfit, scrawny and waiting for the audience, his congregation, to arrive for this memorial service, the memorial service program itself and the choice of songs are all spot on.

Then of course there is the shaggy dog story of Sandy’s life – first glimpsed in 2011 in Drummond’s Top Table, a trio of disastrous speeches given from the top table at the marriage of Sandy’s daughter Michelle. And here remembered in all its cat and dog food testing, Jackie Bird-obsessing, Chic Murray’s funeral-videoing glory.

And on the occasion of his death, the company has even got Callum Cuthbertson, who played Sandy in Top Table, to pre-record a video of the “if you’re watching this I must be dead” kind, explaining the back story of how Sandy caused his own death – not quite engineering it, but setting out on a course which held enough dangers to all but guarantee it.

layers of disappointment

Brilliant conceits, all. And there is little to fault in the mounting layers of disappointment of that life as revealed by Young: the shallowness of Andy and Sandy’s lives; the fine notes of failing in love as youngsters; and Sandy’s seeming salvation in meeting his future wife Anne – played in full torn-faced glory by Joyce Falconer.

Benny Young and Joyce Falconer. Pic: Leslie Black

Have not doubt, this is a splendid little piece of theatre, one which keeps you guessing at its layers and clever wordplays. There are some very nice touches of sound design from Andy Cowan, while Jonathan Scott and Gemma Patchett’s design is spot on.

Yet Drummond’s script just needs to trust its audience – and not worry too much if they miss any of its cleverness. While Young and Falconer’s performances just need to be a shade more reverential to the original concept, instead of stepping outside to show where the laughs are.

This works when it keeps faith in the idea of deeply immersive theatre. But every time it stops playing it straight and lets you think it might not be that, is a moment of loss.

Running time 1 hour (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 24 – Saturday 28 April 2018
Daily at 1.00 pm; Fri 27 Apr also at 7.00 pm
Information and tickets: https://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/1379/a-play-a-pie-and-a-pint-eulogy.aspx.

The Traverse’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint Spring season concludes next week with The Persians.

Benny Young and Joyce Falconer. Pic: Leslie Black


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