PPP: Bread & Breakfast

Mar 7 2024 | By More

★★☆☆☆   Spirited performances

Traverse: Tue 5 – Sat 9 Mar 2024
Review by Hugh Simpson

Bread & Breakfast by Kirsty Halliday, this week’s Play, Pie and a Pint at the Traverse, moves away from the usual monologue or two-handed fare into the honourable tradition of misunderstandings, falling over and sticking your foot in a bucket.

Yes, the latest from Òran Mór (in association with Aberdeen Performing Arts) is an old-fashioned farce. And while there are some decidedly iffy moments, there is also considerable fun to be had.

Maureen Carr and Erin Elkin in Bread & Breakfast. Pic Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

Irene (Maureen Carr) is the owner of a rundown, one-star B&B which is called ‘Nessie’s Lodge’ despite being an hour from Loch Ness. Keen to sell the business, or at least cash in on her valuable painting, Irene gets little help from scatterbrained assistant Jo (Erin Elkin).

When Dan the hotel inspector (James Peake) arrives, he soon apparently chokes to death on stale toast, leaving a body to be disposed of. Peake also plays the police officer who arrives on the scene suspiciously quickly.

It would be tempting to give credit for chutzpah in so clearly evoking the plot as well as the spirit of Fawlty Towers, if it were not something that has been done so often before. That series succeeded because of its incredibly intricate plots, as well as a central character that revealed more of the subconscious of John Cleese than he could possibly have intended. Here, despite some (predictable) twists, the plot seems stretched even at 50 minutes.

Maureen Carr and James Peake in Bread & Breakfast. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

There is little to beat a proper, slapstick-driven farce for sheer theatrical enjoyment, but it has to be executed with mathematical precision (not to mention a rigorous internal logic) to succeed. The limited time and resources afforded to PPP is always going to make this a tall order, despite the efforts of the cast and the spirited direction of Laila Noble.

There are some good jokes, but just as many that fall flat. That the description of the modernist drip painting as ‘Jackson Bollocks’ gets the biggest laugh speaks volumes. The intimate surroundings of Traverse 2 also do not help with the farcical atmosphere, and although Gemma Patchett’s excellent set aids greatly with the necessary entrances and exits, the production never really coheres.


Carr has a rapport with the audience as the bitter Irene, while Elkin has considerable comic presence as the hapless Jo. Peake also has commendable energy in his dual roles. However, they struggle to inject the necessary vigour into a storyline that loses impetus well before the end.

Credit must go to PPP for straying from the usual formula into traditional farce – if this is not a particular success, it must at least be counted as an honourable failure.

Running time: 50 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 5 – Saturday 9 March 2024
Daily at 1.00 pm.
Details and tickets: Book here.

James Peake, Maureen Carr and Erin Elkin in Bread & Breakfast. Pic Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

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