The Traverse Theatre’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint is a fabulous idea: for a mere £12, punters can treat themselves to a warm lunch, a convivial drink, and – of course – some entertainment. It’s a clear attempt to thwart theatre’s (often unfair) elitist reputation; to render play-going a simple, unpretentious event.
Let’s begin with the play. This one (the last in PPP’s Spring season), Broth by Tim Primrose, starts very well indeed: three women, a kitchen and a blood-soaked man. The man is Jimmy, a terrifying patriarch, husband, father and grandfather – respectively – to Mary, Sheena and Ally. It seems that Mary has, for once, fought back: Jimmy is unconscious, maybe even dead, and his blood is everywhere – all over the table cloth, the kettle, his clothes and his face. The three women unite as they try to work out what to do.
The premise is strong, and the characters convince. Their voices are appealingly authentic, the Scots dialect employed with knowing wit and a lightness of touch. The performances rarely falter, and the relationships are beautifully flawed. It’s funny too: that raw, black humour that epitomises domestic tragedies such as this. It’s hard to single out an individual actor for praise; this is a real ensemble piece, and they work together to create a fully-realised world.
Unfortunately, the plotting doesn’t seem as strong as the other elements: after a tight forty minutes, the story starts to waver, becoming repetitive and unfocused. It’s still enjoyable, but there’s no peril left, and the half-hinted at idea of the metaphysical (‘It hurt when you killed me’) is never really developed, so that it feels like a wasted concept – a strange red herring that adds nothing to the play.
Still, it’s well worth seeing, and would work well away from a traditional theatre setting too: this is a play that would translate effectively to a school hall or a community centre or a working men’s club. It’s a welcome slice of kitchen-sink – and at its best when its not trying to be anything else.
Oh – and the pie was lovely.