A Play, A Pie And A Pint, Òran Mór
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
A Play, A Pie And A Pint perhaps works because its components are all age-old comforts; brewing in particular goes back thousands of years, in the past monks were often experts in this area.
Stewart takes us back to the time of the earliest monasteries. The play though isn't about life inside a monastery, with all the monks, beer and mead that would have entailed; it's about life on the fringes for a mother and daughter who farm for the monks, but haven't been converted by them.
The monastery is on another island and the monks are working on a book, so although it's never explicitly stated, it would seem to be Iona and the book the Book of Kells with the women on Mull or another neighbouring island.
The setting is conveyed with some impressive rocks and an array of suitably period tools and vessels. There's a good attention to detail in the costumes and a very versatile veil which becomes the sea, a shawl and a swaddling cloth.
Stewart provides some fun, creative language—I enjoyed Stewart's innuendo even if it fell slightly flat on the lunchtime crowd who perhaps needed another pint to double up over the double entendres.
Brigid (Alison MacFarlane) finds a man washed up on the beach near where her and her mother Rennat (Elspeth Turner) live. Fari (David Rankine) the castaway, becomes involved with the monastery across the water and also the women.
There's some interesting conflict between Christian and pre-Christian society but it isn't really developed. The central plot of the piece though is thoroughly predictable. With a piece set in the past, you hope either to learn surprising historical details or lessons that are relevant to us today. Rona Munro's James Plays managed both, but this piece doesn't really do either.
The acting, particularly between MacFarlane and Turner, is good and indeed quite moving in places. The period is very well conveyed and there is some wonderfully evocative use of Gaelic singing. It isn't quite enough to cover up the banal plot.
Reviewer: Seth Ewin