Oran Mor, Sherman Cymru, Tobacco Factory
For the second time in 2015, Glasgow’s Òran Mór has brought its enviably successful A Play, A Pie and A Pint to the Sherman. Like the previous piece—Welsh writer Matthew Trevannion’s Leviathan—Happy Hour is a dark-toned, three-handed family drama.
We find ourselves, courtesy of Jonathan Scott’s economical set, in the back room of a pub somewhere in Fife. It is three months after the death of the publican; his widow and adult offspring have convened to scatter his ashes. And, naturally, to bicker.
Anne, the brittle matriarch, is rethinking her plans about the money which is now at her disposal. Kay, the youngest child, needs to claim her inheritance in order to rescue her latest financially troubled New Age healing venture. Her brother, Tom, missed the funeral, and has only just arrived back from Africa, where he is an aid-worker; he has things other than money on his mind.
This is the first play by Anita Vettesse, who has performed with the company in the past; thus it is unsurprising that she has a handle on what will please both audiences in such small-scale venues and actors in need of meaty, relatable roles. Her writing flows amusingly, and the characters are vividly drawn, director Gethin Evans ensuring the believability of their affectionately uneasy interactions.
We are told that the widow felt that she married beneath herself; Anne Lacey deftly conveys her sense of regal entitlement as, freed from an apparently unhappy marriage, she seeks to finally live her own life.
Hannah Donaldson’s Kay is both ditzy and hard-headed, her exasperation painfully evident. As the more grounded Tom, Stephen McCole is the moral centre of the piece; we soon discover, however, that the relationship with his deceased father was a troubled one.
This issue is one of several which go largely unexplored, since Happy Hour clocks in at less than fifty minutes. We hear enough, though, to learn that Kay’s home life is shaping up to be as unsatisfactory as her mother’s, and that Tom finds Africa more welcoming than Scotland.
The principle of Chekhov’s gun applies—a box full of a loved one’s ashes is on stage, therefore some unfortunate comedy business is bound to ensue. If there is a criticism of the play, it is that it covers a lot of other well-worn territory. It is all done with great skill, however, and Happy Hour was well-received by the near-capacity audience in the Sherman’s studio space.
The Òran Mór currently produces 38 new plays a year for the lunchtime A Play, A Pie and A Pint programme; a similar initiative in Cardiff would, I suspect, be welcomed.
Reviewer: Othniel Smith