Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Barflies

Adapted from the stories and poems of Charles Bukowski by Ben Harrison
Grid Iron
The Barony Bar, Edinburgh

Barflies, Grid Iron Credit: Douglas Jones

This a play about booze set in a pub; what's there not to like? In addition it should be said the Barony is a great little pub on Broughton Street. The characters are the sorts of people you'd want at your watering hole; yes, true, they drink a little more than the guideline three units a night but they're funny, eccentric and they tell a good yarn.

Henry (Keith Fleming) is the writer / drinker protagonist practically glued to the bar, his life a cocktail of wine, women (all played by Charlene Boyd) and more wine. The play is based on short stories by US writer Charles Bukowski, but it is adapted in such a way that it flows together into one narrative surrounding a very Scottish main character.

Helping the narrative flow along is the barman Silent Dave (David Paul Jones) whose most important role in the piece is not pulling pints but playing the piano and singing. Jones is also the composer and sound designer for the piece and delivers a nice round of dry lines.

Fleming and Boyd make great drunks, downing shots, dancing on the bar and chucking wine over the audience who are tightly-packed into the snug bar. The transfer to Scotland makes sense with the Scots having a long and complicated relationship with their booze and boozers, but there were some elements of American humour that shone through: I found something about Henry's manner reminded me of US comedian Doug Stanhope.

Where Fleming is a disheveled, unshaven, beer-gut-cultivating drinker, Boyd plays some very sensual women, particularly Cass, who is very much the life of the pub, at least when she's happy and drunk. Her changes between a host of women of different ages and social classes are effortless, often taking place behind the bar and sometimes playing two at once fighting over Henry.

Being that this is so site specific, one might assume all of the stories involved would be realist, but there is a wonderful comic fantasy episode at the end that is subversively dark like something by Will Self. I won't spoil it but it had the audience in equal measure laughing and retching.

Its lucky being in a pub isn't always this entertaining as otherwise I might never leave and my liver would go the way of Henry's, which incidentally makes an appearance in the play.

Reviewer: Seth Ewin