Dirt Under the Carpet

Rona Munro
A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Shunt Vaults, London Bridge

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A sitcom about office cleaners and a corpse? Been there, got bored by that, hated the video? Think again. The final play in Òran Mór and Paines Plough's A Play, A Pie and A Pint series demonstrates what is possible with a seemingly worn-out subject.

The season opened with David Greig's quirky Being Norwegian and this 45 minute comedy mystery drama might easily have been called Being Aberdonian.

It packs a great amount into a short period of time, which is a credit to leading Scottish playwright Rona Munro and the creative team.

George Perrin directs two seasoned Scottish performers using a language and accent that take a little getting used to - like Irvine Welsh but more so.

Muriel and Lorraine are office cleaners at an ailing company loosely connected to the oil industry. They make the nights pass by inventing lives for the workers whom they never meet but whose stations they clean, constantly threatened by post it notes from the tyrannical boss, Mr B, who is the play's thoroughly deserving corpse.

Una McLean's Muriel has been doing the job for 35 years but feels insecure as warnings for inefficiency accumulate. She loves her home town but is also lonely as her children have flown the nest for far-flung destinations that she can rarely afford to visit.

Lesley Hart plays her younger colleague who speaks with rich, imagistic language that confirms her identity as a wannabe singer/songwriter. Her plans have gone awry after a long spell in prison for assaulting the man who stole her heart but also her intellectual property, claiming that Lorraine's songs were his own.

Munro weaves together a murder mystery with a view of a distant part of the United Kingdom and portraits of two ordinary women. She does so using humour and poetry, carving out great parts for both actresses, who rise to the task as one would expect from a pair of Scotland's finest.

As with The Mousetrap, it would be unfair to reveal whodunit and why but the solution is worthy of the play and leaves the audience with a sense of justice, which is always welcome.

This season has been a constant delight, with the pies and pints of a quality to enhance the drama. One can only hope that the quartet of contrasting plays will get an extended life and inspire the companies to repeat the experiment soon.

There are still three nights to go. Why not try to beg, steal or, like ??? in the play, murder to get a ticket for a season that was officially sold out before it even opened.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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