PPP: Write Off

Mar 22 2023 | By More

★★★★☆   Magnetic

Traverse Theatre: Tue 21 – Sat 25 Mar 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is an undeniable force to Aodhan Gallagher’s Write-Off, the latest Play, Pie and a Pint at the Traverse, presented by Oran Mor in association with Dundee Rep.

The set-up seems almost painfully topical. Novelist Freddie, whose publishers are worried about a backlash against his overly gritty thrillers, reluctantly interviews a postgraduate student named Ben as a potential sensitivity reader.

Richard Conlon and Bailey Newsome. Pic: Tommy Ga Ken Wan

Such a bald outline suggests a dry exploration of the issues in a confected culture war, but it immediately becomes apparent that there is far more going on here.

Neither is this a thriller, despite several deftly handled switches both of narrative and of the balance of power between the characters.

Instead it soon becomes a portrayal of two men of different generations. Ben is politically conscious and avowedly ‘queer’; Freddie is older, apparently cynical, and seemingly unwilling to make his sexuality part of his writing persona, or indeed for it to be public knowledge.

depth and nuance

One of the many impressive things about Gallagher’s debut stage play is the depth and nuance they give to the characters. Both participants are multi-layered and more complex in their motivations than seems apparent at first glance. They have obvious faults, but can still be sympathetic.

Richard Conlon’s Freddie is a tremendous performance. His bottled-up frustration is expressed not only in spitting, self-justifying anger, but also in wonderfully timed humour of the bleakest kind. Bailey Newsome is able to give life convincingly to both the apparently guileless Ben, and to the more complicated and calculating character he soon becomes.

Richard Conlon and Bailey Newsome. Pic: Tommy Ga Ken Wan

There’s a sparkle to Gallagher’s dialogue as well as emotional truth, in a play that unexpectedly opens out into an exploration of loss, community, connection and commemoration.

There are a couple of snags. Irene Macdougall’s pin-sharp direction, and the unusually sturdy realism of Gemma Patchett and Jonny Scott’s set, can never quite dispel the notion that the visual component of the play is less assured than the dialogue.

beautifully realised staging

There are also a couple of mis-steps towards the end as the desire to be all-encompassing seems a little too strong, and the characters threaten to become more symbolic than the very real people, with all their foibles, that they previously were.

Nevertheless, this avoids many of the pitfalls of a 50-minute two-hander. It is expertly paced – thanks in no small part to Macdougall’s direction – and manages to resolve itself satisfactorily, ending up as a beautifully realised staging of an exceptionally impressive debut.

Running time: 50 minutes (no interval)
Traverse, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED.
Tue 21 – Sat 25 Mar 2023.
Matinees: 1pm. (Traverse 2).
Tickets and details: Book here.

Bailey Newsome and Richard Conlon. Pic: Tommy Ga Ken Wan


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.