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The Ching Room

Alan Bissett
A Traverse and Òran Mór production
A Play, a Pie and a Pint Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
(2009)

A Play, a Pie and a Pint publicity image

Poetry in nightclub toilets usually doesn't stretch much beyond crude rhymes carelessly scratched into the toilet door or above the urinal. Alan Bissett though manages to create to a lyrical little piece within the confines of the lavatory.

A quiet man walks into a cubicle to be met by a cocky rascal with hair as black and shiny as his jacket. My first thought was that it was to be a sexual encounter, but, as one can guess from the title, it was, in fact, for public toilets' other main function, a drugs transaction. This was news to quiet man Rory (Colin McCredie) who just wanted to use the toilet for its bog standard function.

Not just a menacing drug dealer, Darren (Andy Clark) is also an eloquent one, but this subversion of expectations is not a cheap gag: indeed the play steers away from easy laughs. Clark is suitably smooth and delivers Bissett's lines of cocaine homage with an Ortonesque swagger.

Darren invests the small cubicle with a divine aura, a place of worship for his god cocaine, much to the confusion of the less than streetwise Rory.

The two are not quite the odd couple they first appear: Rory turns out to be a poet and his motives that night at the club are equally dubious. While to begin with the play is about Rory being bullied into the transaction, after the pair bond over the cistern top the shy poet comes alive.

Rory gets shaken out of his compromising pathetic existence, writing puke-inducing poems for weddings and being walked over by the women in his life. McCredie, who starts off nervous and nerdy looking, undergoes a transformation, channelling like Clark a shocking voltage of electricity into his performance.

The two share poetry and discuss what Rory is doing in the club that night without his wife: it's kind of touching a weird way.

This wee gram of drama disnae glamourise cocaine; it's more of a fantasy, with the dealer getting hooked on the poet's lyrical renditions (though not the wedding poetry which is, in his words, "pish"). With both character's changing, witty one-liners and some well-delivered verse there's a lot wrapped up in this short duologue.

The class A drug isn't vilified either, although Darren's delusional descriptions of the toilet as a temple testify to the drug's dangers. This piece is for entertainment not education, and it seems fair enough when the audience get a drug that ruins far more lives as part of their ticket.

A play, a pie and a pint continues in style with this cracking piece of theatre that will blow you away.

'The Ching Room' runs until 28th March, 2009
'A Play, a Pie and a Pint' Tuesday to Saturday until 18th April, 2009

Reviewer: Seth Ewin