PPP: Celestial Body

Sep 21 2021 | By More

★★★★☆  Brooding

Traverse Theatre: Tues 21– Sat 25 Sept 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

The return of A Play, A Pie and A Pint to the Traverse with Morna Pearson’s Celestial Body, which runs to Saturday, is certainly something to celebrate.

The play, produced by Oran Mor in association with Aberdeen Performing Arts and the Traverse, may have some shortcomings in the plot department, but it makes up for it with its sharp dialogue and psychological depth.

Ross Mann (Bruce) and Samuel Pashby (Hamish). Pic: Leslie Black

Bruce joins a gym in order to repair his failing marriage; there he meets Hamish, who reluctantly agrees to help Bruce train. Meanwhile, Hamish also meets Bruce’s wife Laura when he fixes the washing machine.

All three characters are clearly dealing with past traumas. Laura’s compulsive baking masks a deep sorrow, as does Hamish’s insistence on exercise as a ‘ritual’ that gives him a reason to get out of bed ‘even when he doesn’t want to’.

decidedly macabre

This is a comparatively dark piece for lunchtime, with its emphasis on loss, grief and mental instability. Although billed as a ‘dark comedy’, laughs are in short supply. There are some touches of humour, but they are decidedly macabre, and are less convincing than the more serious moments.

Indeed, the whole play loses its way a little towards the end. It is always obvious that there is going to be more to the situation than meets the eye at first, but the resolution does not convince completely. It is probably best not to examine the whole plot too closely, as a great deal of it will not stand to close scrutiny.

Neshla Caplan as Laura. Pic: Leslie Black

Best, then, to concentrate on Pearson’s extremely deft characterisation, which is matched by excellent performances and Becky Hope-Palmer’s wonderfully sharp direction.

Neshla Caplan’s Louise is a beautifully pitched portrait of someone on the edge, relying on horoscope phonelines that may or may not come from inside her head (something that, like so much else in this production, is realised with clarity and considerable flair).

Samuel Pashby’s Hamish is also beautifully judged, while Ross Mann handles many of the more light-hearted moments with aplomb.

Anyone who is nervous about returning to the theatre should be reassured by the Traverse’s continuing and scrupulous one-metre distancing. There may be nothing remotely reassuring about much of this play, but it is extremely heartening to see such a well-performed production.

Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 21 – Saturday 25 September 2021
Daily at 1.00 pm; Thursday also 7.00 pm

Information and tickets Book here.

Samuel Pashby, Ross Mann and Neshla Caplan. Pic: Leslie Black


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