Alright – any show that encourages its audience to start drinking at twelve noon is already working its way into my good books. Theatre company Not Too Tame has taken a pub in Edinburgh, the delightfully named Jinglin’ Geordie, and placed within it Early Doors, a heartfelt and entertaining snapshot of pub culture. Pints aside, the play itself is bursting with energy, and, thankfully, doesn’t simply rely on its site-specific surroundings.
Love-hate brother and sister duo Paddy (Not Too Tame AD Jimmy Fairhurst) and Beth (Carla Turner) have inherited the pub after their mother’s death. Their story hinges on Beth’s desperation to start a new life for herself elsewhere and the resentment that inspires in her brother; it is, however, but one of many stories, told by just one of many means. Within the space of just an hour Not Too Tame races through several well-observed story lines, told sometimes through song, sometimes through dialogue, meaning Early Doors is both captivating and stylistically varied.
We go from a poetic off-the-cuff eulogy for Paddy and Beth’s mum, to a pub quiz, darkly and superbly hosted by Andrew Butler’s Steve; from intense and simple monologue to cutesy acoustics from quirky hipster songwriter Joanna B (Kate Sobey). Words fly in dialect between characters, but the spoken-word quality shows them to never be carelessly chosen. It would have been so easy for Not Too Tame to simply lean back on the smell of the pub and the fact that we were all sat around the Jinglin’ Geordie as if we’d just popped in for a pint – granted, these helped greatly boost the atmosphere, but the company has not allowed itself to become lazy with that.
Not Too Tame is a company of actors, and the acting really does shine. Particular stand out performances come from Katherine Pearce (of Secret Theatre company fame) who, in her brief appearance as the pub’s local drug flogger, is memorable and hilarious, while also managing to carry some of Early Doors’ wider concerns about class and the difficulties faced by a young generation. Also impressive are the contrasting monologues of exes Leah (Louise Haggerty) and bouncer Chris (Anthony Wright-Wilson). Even if a brief scene in the men’s loos doesn’t quite work – the whole piece is so site-specific that this moment, which takes place up against the wall of the pub with imaginary urinals, seems unnatural and out of place amongst the rest of the piece – it does mean we get to see both an amusing examination of masculinity in pubs and a pair of rather extravagant knickers.
Perhaps we don’t delve hugely deep into the lives of the characters, and the upbeat ending is a little forgetful of some of the more serious moments of the piece. But at bottom, Not Too Tame has created what it set out to: a celebration, not only of the good but also the bad aspects of regional pub culture. And in the process, examining class, love, hope, and aspiration along the way, Early Doors celebrates an awful lot.
Early Doors is playing Pleasance Pop-Up: The Pub until 25 August (not 19). For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.