The Pieman Cometh: A Cautionary Football Tale

Aug 15 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆       Peh? Meh

Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre (Venue 76): Wed 1–Sun 26 Aug 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

Instantly recognisable situations and types from Scottish football give The Pieman Cometh: A Cautionary Football Tale, at the Gilded Ballon Rose Theatre Basement, a wide appeal.

Bryan Jackson, the number-cruncher who helped save Dundee, Motherwell and (perhaps most famously) Hearts from liquidation, is the co-author with former Herald journalist David Belcher. Many attending will doubtless hope to get some inside information from the story of financially-stricken Dunwearie FC, home to the most celebrated pies in all football.

Calum Cuthbertson, Ross Allan and Julie Coombe The Pieman Cometh. Pic Steve Ullathorne

Calum Cuthbertson, Ross Allan and Julie Coombe. Pic: Steve Ullathorne

It is doubtful whether anyone will learn anything about football club finance from this. Supporters of clubs who have been through administration will know more about the process than they probably want to, while other clubs’ fans will not be so bothered. Either way, Jackson seems unwilling or unable to disclose much that is not already in the public domain.

Equally disappointing is the predictability of many of the jokes. Anyone who has ever sat through Only An Excuse? on Hogmanay will know how stale such material can be. This is not as bad as that, but – shorn of its cruelty – the humour of Scottish football can seem oddly toothless, and the self-deprecation begins to look like self-congratulation.

For example, a reference to submarines, obviously meant as a reference to Hearts’ former owner Vladimir Romanov, is not really a joke at all, merely an observation designed to provoke an easy laugh.

Although the characters are shameless stereotypes, they are discharged with great energy, with Frank Miller’s direction bordering on the frenetic. Among the various roles they play, Callum Cuthbertson’s hectoring radio presenter and Julie Coombe’s bizarrely gesticulating manager are particularly pleasing.

poignant moments

Ross Allan holds it all together as insolvency practitioner Alan Ledger. His performance is oddly touching and has more subtlety than the script requires.

There are certainly some well observed and poignant moments – especially with Coombe as club employee made redundant, and Cuthbertson as an aged supporter – but these are largely thrown away.

It looks like the title might lead to something interesting, using a recurrent symbol of Scottish football to explore just why the game has such a hold on so many of us, but it only leads to a couple more old jokes and routines.

There is a definite energy to this piece, and neither theatre nor football fans will end up feeling short-changed. However, it does feel like something of a missed opportunity.

Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre (Venue 76), 204 Rose St, EH2 4AZ
Wednesday 1 – Sunday 26 August 2018
Daily (not Mon 13) at 2.30 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Gilded Balloon website:


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