The Lottery Ticket

26/09/18

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh 

We’re always being told that theatre should be as accessible as possible. Few initiatives exemplify this ideal more successfully than the Traverse Theatre’s A Play, a Pie and a Pint seasons. For just £13.50, punters can enjoy an original hour-long piece of theatre, a tasty snack and a drink of their choice. During a grey Edinburgh lunch hour, it’s certainly gratifying to see the auditorium packed with eager theatre-goers, making the most of the opportunity.

The Lottery Ticket, by Donna Franceschild, has the air of a whimsical contemporary fable. Two homeless men wake up after spending the night in somebody’s garden bin shed. They have been violently ejected from a shelter the night before and one of them has sustained serious injuries in the altercation. They are Salih (Nebli Bassani), a Turkish/Kurdish asylum seeker and his friend, Jacek (Steven Duffy), a Polish handyman, now suffering from a couple of broken ribs. Both of them desperately need money  – Jacek to send home to his loved ones and Salih to facilitate his return to his homeland – but neither of them can see a way to solve their respective predicaments.

When Jacek discovers that a current lottery ticket has mysteriously found its way into his pocket, the fervently religious Salih decides that this is a sign from Allah that their luck is about to change for the better. But then they are discovered by house owner, Rhona (Helen Mallon), who has a very pressing need of her own. She’s in desperate need of a plumber but it’s a Saturday and she can’t get anyone to come out to deal with the issue. If only she could find somebody to fix the problem…

Watching this wry and sometimes challenging story play out is a rewarding way to spend an hour. Bassani and Duffy are charismatic performers who make an engaging double act, while Mallon’s character is more acerbic and adds a little acid to the mix. As the two men struggle with the intricacies of her overflowing toilet, we learn more about their backgrounds: about the circumstances that have brought them to where they are today – and we come to appreciate that good fortune can appear in many different guises.

This is a charming and immensely likeable slice of theatre. As I head for the exit afterwards, I can’t help thinking that all lunch times should be as fulfilling as this one.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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