Review – Dig

Oct 15 2011 | By More

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Stewart Porter (Tommy) and Louise Ludgate (Brenda) in Dig © All rights reserved by PlayPiePint

By Thom Dibdin

A Play, a Pie and a Pint @ Traverse Theatre

Lunchtime theatre returned to the Traverse this week with a bang, in Katie Douglas’ hard-hitting Dig.

It is the first of a five-week residency for the Play, Pie and Pint series, which also sees a new choice of pies for the season. Courtesy of Malones of Slateford Road there’s now a no-nonsense choice of just two fillings – a classic Scotch Pie or Cheese & Beans.

Dig is the sort of brash, confident and hard-hitting piece of theatre which makes you sit up. A perfectly crafted short, in which your perceptions of the three characters on stage are built up and toyed with as you come to empathise with each in turn. Yet it leaves you knowing that, somehow, there will be a way forward.

Louise Ludgate and Stewart Porter step straight up to the mark as long-time married couple, Brenda and Tommy. Their gallus Glaswegian banter crackles along as they sit around on the big armchair, discussing the whys and wherefores of their not-quite teenage son’s decision not to go on a school trip.

Douglas’ ear for dialogue is complemented by an ability to work her revelations in seamlessly. With Ludgate and Porter working it hard, the naturalistically mundane is soon teased out with new tensions as the truth of the couple’s situation becomes clear.

The arrival of Simon Macallum as Tommy’s brother, Dean, racks up the tensions. Macallum brings a complex mixture of anger and and humility as the prodigal brother, drawing enough attention from the play’s main thrust to give the ending a sucker punch which strikes a horribly realistic chord for those caught up in the descending spiral of the economic crisis.

It’s not just the construction which appeals, however. Douglas has caught and questions the moral dilemmas faced by a couple on the verge economic meltdown. She gives big, emotional pathways into the material for both Ludgate and Porter.

Those who remember the likes of Yosser Hughes in Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff will recognise the arguments from the last time an ideologically Conservative government gave the poor an economic kicking.

Douglas’ concern here is pride – of the kind which can drive a person to stasis – and what rises from that pride: the denial, the sense of hopelessness and, most of all, the inability to express any of it, even to those who you love.

It’s a big mix, which director George Perrin for Paines Plough, brings to the boil with just the right amount of energy for the 45 minute running time. Kirsten Hogg’s set, placing the armchair in the scattered wood-chip of a children’s playground, adds an emphasis to the long broken relationship between Tommy and Dean, while Scott Twynholm’s sound and music adds a vicious punch at the just the right moments.

As for the pies – the scotch pie is nicely peppery, a solid creation of the kind you might get in the pub at half time while watching the Edinburgh Derby on Sky Sport. A pie to soak up the alcohol and sustain the energy levels.

Run continues at the Traverse to Saturday, 1pm. Details here.

Dig now tours:
Royal Exchange Studio, Manchester, Wed 19 -Sat 22 Oct, 7pm; matinee Sat 22, 1pm)
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Tue 25-Fri 28 Oct, 1pm and 6pm; Fri 28 1pm only.


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