Pint Dreams[author-post-rating] (4/5 Stars)

Maybe I am just being dismal, but walking around the Edinburgh Fringe alone can be depressing. It is possible to go ages without conversation, and when a chat does show up it is normally with a shop-assistant, PR or leafleter whose jobs require them to talk to me (or a toothless man aggressively insisting that I owe him a “shtenner and a schigarette”). Add to that the lingering fear that someone I reviewed harshly might recognise me and you can see why I might prefer to travel in a group.

I was glad, then, to learn that Tin Box had incorporated the walk to the venue into their show Pint Dreams. At Waverley Station’s Market Street entrance, gatherers are greeted by main character Maggie, and taken on a brief adventure through The Mound where she picks up a busker called Craig. Such is actress Elena Voce Siriani’s brilliance in the role of Maggie that on first encounter I almost forgot about the immersive-theatre production I was waiting for, genuinely thinking a ostentatiously-dressed stranger was approaching to ask “is it too early for a drink?” Having been asked to smile for a photograph only moments earlier by a man wearing a black trilby, pin-striped trousers and flip-flops, this would not have been all that surprising; even Maggie’s quirky dungaree-outfit seemed casually arts-fest-chic.

Craig, played by David Gray, then serenades the party all the way to St Stephen Street (no doubt this is intended to attract curious wanderers) with Maggie striking up conversations including a character backstory delivered as small-talk, and estimating how much a macaroon costs. It is a smart remedy to an otherwise long walk and it establishes a pleasant conversational tone for the rest of the performance.

There is more exposition and chat, before the musical accompaniment resumes and Maggie unpacks her bag, which conveniently doubles as a puppet-show. The introduction of the papier-mâché-faced table top puppet, seemingly locked in a flamenco-dancing-like posture, boosts a confident, memorable storytelling experience.

Maggie’s patter is vital because the show’s unorthodox mission statement and premise is that she tours pubs, rather than stages, around the UK collecting and telling stories. The Antiquary, though out-of-the-way, is an ideal location for this, feeling suitably like an old tavern. It is easily worth the excursion; an all-round tidy drinking hole, with chips for the audience and – although I am no pub reviewer (I can dream) – inexpensive, well-kept beer.

Although the assuredness of the performance was not hampered by the poor-attendance at the viewing I attended, a busier crowd would almost certainly bolster the show, this being the sort of act which thrives on audience engagement. Even away from this venue, I am confident the show could grace pretty much any pub with its unique brand of traveller-themed entertainment.

Pint Dreams was at The Antiquary as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.