PPP: Pushin’ Thirty

Mar 20 2024 | By More

★★★☆☆   Delicate

Traverse: Tue 19 – Sat 23 Mar 2024
Review by Hugh Simpson

Pushin’ Thirty at the Traverse is a delicate and evocative piece that does not always convince.

The latest Play, Pie and a Pint from Òran Mór (with the Traverse and Ayr Gaiety) is a play with songs by Taylor Dyson and Calum Kelly (otherwise known as Elfie Picket Theatre) featuring Dyson as Eilidh and Sam James Smith as Scott.

Taylor Dyson with Sam James Smith. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

In 2011, the friends are about to leave school in Dundee, with dreams of making it big as a singing duo. Only Scott follows through on their idea of moving to London, and twelve years later he returns, on the eve of his 30th birthday. In the interim, neither of them have fulfilled their teenage dreams.

Scott describes the duo’s music as ‘lo-fi indie pop-punk vegetarian grunge’. This is one of those categories best left to the imagination, as the actual music is in an unprepossessing singer-songwriter mode, full of angsty lyrics and acoustic guitar. The songs have a half-finished feel to them, and sit awkwardly in the narrative.

sparky, well-observed dialogue

That narrative, despite some sparky, well-observed dialogue, is somewhat on the awkward side itself. The two performers spend as much time narrating as they do interacting, which gives the feel of a (barely) dramatised short story rather than a play proper.

Taylor Dyson and Sam James Smith. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

At times it takes the concept of telling rather than showing to uncomfortable lengths, with the audience constantly being informed how the characters feel about themselves and each other. There must be a more elegant way to show someone having an epiphany than by having the other character declare, straight-faced, ‘all of a sudden it became clear to Eilidh’.

Which is a shame, as the actual conversations are decidedly impressive. The depictions of teenage obsessions and of broken friendship are convincing. There are also some sharply funny cameos featuring incidental characters, despite some of the jokes about 2010s nostalgia or Dundee being a shade obvious.

effortlessly sensitive backing

Dyson and Smith portray all of this in an engaging manner, with an enviable comic rhythm. Dyson’s voice and Smith’s effortlessly sensitive backing also give the music an immediacy that makes up for its comparative lack of dynamism.

Beth Morton’s direction also has a momentum and atmosphere that smooths over the infelicities of the plot. Gemma Patchett’s design is eye-catching and functional.

If it all ends up being rather inconsequential, it nevertheless has considerable charm.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 19 – Saturday 23 March 2024
Daily at 1.00 pm
Details and tickets: Book here.

Sam James Smith with Taylor Dyson. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan


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