If you’re reading from outside Glasgow, you might not be familiar with the format of A Play, a Pie and a Pint. Scotland’s first lunchtime theatre was launched by David MacLellan in 2004 at Oran Mor, a beautifully restored church in the heart of Glasgow’s trendy West End. The small venue attracts some of Scotland’s top performers by presenting new short works from the country’s top playwrights and emerging writers; and this spring season – the 12th since its inception – is proving to be one of the best.
This week’s 45 minute serving was Turbo Folk by Alan Bissett, directed by Sacha Kyle and designed by Patrick and Rita McGurn. Bissett’s first comedy The Moira Monologues debuted here at Oran Mor last year starring Bissett himself, and has since been revived at the Citizens Theatre prior to touring. We can probably expect Turbo Folk to follow suit very soon.
Set in Eastern Europe, touring Scottish rocker Cameron (Ryan Fletcher – Black Watch, River City) has been taken to a rather undesirable local bar by his record company’s guide Miko (Simon Donaldson) as he searches for inspiration for his latest album. Here, the barman Vlad (Steven McNicoll) isn’t too impressed with having a British man around, having served through a British peacekeeping occupation in the 90’s. Miko has left his dark past behind and attempted to forge a career for himself; Vlad hasn’t moved on. The scene is primed for confrontation.
Bissett serves up what can only be described as a belter of a black comedy, with extremely funny dialogue, punchy one-liners and brilliant situational comedy. His use of pigeon-Scots to represent an Eastern European language sets up plenty of belly laughs, at one point causing the patron along the bench from me to almost choke on his pie. He also nicely twists the setup to have Miko and Vlad talk in regular Scots when we’re inside their reality, with Cameron suddenly talking the foreign language and struggling to be understood.
But what are Turbo Folk? It’s the collective term for the generation of music this Balkan state seems to idolise. Cameron at first turns his nose up at it; he once played T-in-the-Park, don’t you know. He soon changes his tune and lets the music influence him as the others coax him in to playing a solo gig in the bar. What follows is a smash acoustic performance by Fletcher which really gets the audience roused. Let’s hope that he finds as much time to dedicate to his music career as he does to acting, as this short set proves beyond a doubt that he has the potential to be a crowning solo artist.
Cameron carries a stereotypical belief that everyone in the world loves the Scots, but to Miko and Vlad, he is as a Brit – just like the soldiers they once fought. The contrast when the focus shifts is actually quite chilling, poising many topical questions, among them: are Scots really perceived the world over as a fun-loving people, as many may believe, or are they seen as the loud, over-confident, drunken brother of the rest of the British Isles?