PPP: Stay

Oct 10 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆     Engaging

Traverse: Tue 10 – Sat 14 Oct 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Stay, the latest Play, Pie and a Pint from Òran Mór at the Traverse, is a tuneful and emotional piece.

Jonathan O’Neill and Isaac Savage’s musical is set in a park that was once attractive, but now is run down and overshadowed by a motorway. Rowan (Craig Hunter) is there in the company of his one-time fiancee Kit (Daisy Ann Fletcher) to scatter ashes – a ceremony which does not go with the dignity he intended.

Daisy Ann Fletcher and Craig Hunter in Stay. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

It is difficult to say much about the subject matter without indulging in unwarranted spoilers, but suffice it to say that a potentially tricky subject matter is handled with delicacy.

However, navigating a difficult topic with tact does not excuse a production from criticism, and it has to be said that there are problems.

The small-scale, two-hander musical is not a new departure for PPP. While it is often clear why a play has demanded to be in such a format, it is not so obvious here.

In more traditional musicals, the songs are used to exemplify character or emotion and so can easily be detached from the overall narrative; jukebox musicals are very much inheritors of this tradition. More recently, what could be called the post-Sondheim strand is largely or wholly sung through.

spry and humorous

Stay straddles these two extremes; there is a large amount of spoken dialogue, but much of the important information comes in the songs. The musical numbers, therefore, have to do a lot of the heavy lifting emotionally, compared to the relatively spry and humorous dialogue. The songs do not quite manage to sustain such a weight – the more upbeat ones are too cheesy, while the more contemplative numbers tend to the overwrought.

Craig Hunter and Daisy Ann Fletcher in Stay. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

It is always difficult to judge songs on first hearing, and while the music itself has some impact (the spare arrangements making particularly affecting use of cello) the lyrics, while certainly sincere, are verging on the trite.

The two performers do, however, carry them off with the maximum of dignity as well as being immensely likeable presences. Hunter’s more stuffy Rowan provides a clever contrast to Fletcher’s more chaotic Kit, and there is a believable chemistry between them that carries the production through the script’s less assured moments. Particular credit to Fletcher for navigating the ever-tricky business of quickly consuming real food on stage (in this case a whole ice-cream cone) with such skill.


Director Melanie Bell makes good use of the duo, and of Gemma Patchett and Jonny Scott’s typically understated and effective park-bench set. Hannah Docherty’s choreography is similarly restrained but has a calm efficiency that – like the rest of the staging – helps ground a production that otherwise might become over-excited, striving for an emotional impact it does not always earn.

It is all very engaging, however, and undoubtedly heartfelt, which means that it is impossible to dislike.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 10 – Saturday 14 October 2023
Daily at 1.00 pm
Details and tickets: Book here.


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