Review – A respectable Woman Takes to Vulgarity

Feb 28 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  What a stoater

Traverse Theatre, a Play a Pie and a Pint
Tue 26 Feb-Sat 2 Mar 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

The relationship between language and power is woven right through Douglas Maxwell’s misleadingly simple script for a Play, a Pie and a Pint, at the Traverse theatre every lunchtime until Saturday.

On the surface this is a comedy of expletive-driven language. Joanna Tope’s recently widowed Annabelle meets Scott Fletcher’s Motherwell-supporting Jim after her husband’s funeral.

A slip of the tongue from the youngster, flustered in the presence of his recently dead boss’s wife, leads to a friendship in she actively learns to use the vernacular of the football terraces. On the football terraces.

And if that is all you want from the play, great use of bad language to wash down your lunchtime pie, then you are in for a fabulous treat. Tope and Fletcher are in top form and it is a real pleasure to watch them up-close in the confines of Traverse 2.

Recently seen on stage in Lickety Spit’s Christmas Quangle Wangle, and with script in hand at the Traverse Fifty rehearsed readings, Fletcher is becoming a face to watch in Scottish theatre. On television, he is something of a scene stealer in Gary Tank Commander.

Tope was seen at the Traverse, not so long ago, as Eve in Jo Clifford’s Tree of Knowledge, and previously in Douglas Maxwell’s Promises Promises. The latter transferring to New York as The Promise where she received a nomination for “Outstanding Solo Performance in the Drama Desk Awards.

Fletcher is charm personified, erudite and articulate when it comes to discussing the finer points of how language will effect the football field performance of a teenage striker, learning a new language in a foreign land. Swearing with accomplished fluidity, always able to make it fit comfortably into his meaning.

Tope is masterful in her control, creating a plum-mouthed tone for her character and then easing her new vernacular falteringly into her conversation. She makes Annabelle’s use of language utterly hilarious both by virtue of the words themselves, but also in the way she miss-uses them – and then uses them with deadly exactitude,

Together, they work a magic. Under Orla O’Loughlin’s elegant direction they find a whole range of complex and hidden relationships to each other. But that is quite by-the-by.

The point here is the way language can define both the user and their place in society; how a name can do the same. It’s no accident that Jim’s surname is Dick, while Annabelle’s is Love. These work on every level, as descriptors of the characters, hints to their status, as aide-memoires for the audience to remember them and ironic commentary on the naming of characters in literature.

O’Loughlin’s direction makes great use of Patrick McGurn’s basic design – a table, two chairs and a couple of hat stands. Her actors travel from the boardroom to the factory floor, from changing room to football terrace, just from the way they move around the stage. McGurn’s costumes, are equally suggestive, a donkey jacket, a coloured scarf or a cardigan changing mood, and situation.

But the real triumph here is Maxwell’s. There is one slightly obvious moment, but otherwise this brilliantly crafted. And beneath all that swearing, he has something quite strong to say about taboo. It is a point which is made in a moment when, having listened and laughed at an expletive-fuelled forty minutes, he has the whole audience gasping at the audacity and outrageousness of one, particular word.

A great way to spend a lunchtime and one of the best A Play, A Pie and A Pint‘s to transfer to the Traverse.

Run ends Saturday.

The rest of the a Play, a Pie and a Pint season:

Most Favoured by David Ireland

Tue 5 – Sat 9 Mar, 1pm

Clean by Sabrina Mahfouz
Tue 12 – Sat 16 Mar, 1pm

The Commission by Steven Dick – winner of the Channel 4/ Òran Mór Comedy Drama Award
Tue 19 – Sat 23 Mar, 1pm

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