Monday, May 26, 2008

"Call it Sleep" - May 2008

This week's production in the "A Play, A Pie and A Pint" season at Oran Mor is "Call it Sleep", written and directed by Brian Pettifer whose acting had impressed us in "The Drawer Boy". Here he has written a genuinely entertaining piece that the lunchtime audience clearly enjoyed, but it's also hugely flawed.

The setting is a fourth floor flat on Hogmanay as mother and daughter reminisce about the past. The focus is mainly on the questioning of Susan (Kim Gerard) about the previous boyfriends of her mother Rosie (Juliet Cadzow). The problem is that what we essentially get is Susan simply acting as a spark for Rosie to rant humourously about the men who have come and gone in her life. Cadzow gives a strong performance full of energy and edge, but Pettifer's direction that much of her delivery is at the audience, combined with his gag-a-minute writing, makes it seem much more like a stand up routine than a play. The approach to comedy here is really full-on, throwing absolutely everything at the audience, and much of it is very funny and also includes a couple of I-can't-believe-she-just-said-that moments. While some jokes miss the mark there is more than enough momentum to keep the laughter going until the next one hits home.

Unfortunately the consequence of going all out for laughs is that the plot and characters take a back seat. Susan is largely the straight man to first Rosie and then later Mike (Sean Scanlan), and it's a shame that we never get beyond that as Gerard's excellent performance hints at there being much more depth to her. In fact Susan is the one well-defined character in the piece as both Rosie and Mike are more caricature than anything else. Scanlan takes over delivering the laughs when he arrives and it's very much in a similar direct manner as Rosie. Again, it's performed well but it's all so forcefully comic that I was constantly expecting rimshots.

Of course there is nothing wrong with aiming for laughs - especially when you hit as often as Pettifer does, but it's clear he was also aiming for something else. Indeed the play's title comes from a 60 second section of the show where for once the laughs stop. But it's *so* out of step with the rest of the show that it has little impact and less relevance. It isn't just that questions go unanswered here, it's that many of them go unasked - characters' motivations for life changing decisions simply aren't considered.

If you go to this hoping to have your brain stimulated then I suspect many will leave unsatisfied, but if you go into it wanting to be entertained you won't be disappointed. I'm sure this will keep them laughing at Oran Mor all week long and it deserves a life afterwards - with a little more work it would sit perfectly on the theatre/comedy border that can prove so popular at the Fringe.

'Call it Sleep' runs at Oran Mor until 31st May

Image by Leslie Black used with permission.

2 Heckles

Bluedog said...

Your Pie and a Pint reviews prompted me to check out the Oran Mor website again to see what is going on. I have been aware of good things at Pie and a Pint going on for a while, but did not appreciate the scale and variety of what is on offer. However, lunchtime running in Glasgow kind of rules this out in practical terms, which is a pity. If I find myself in Glasgow of a lunchtime, I will be checking this out however. Presumably there is a regular audience.

Similarly, I would be tempted with the Concert and Canape series as well.

Both of these are a feather in Glasgow's hat. Scotland with Style indeed.

On another tack, Robert Dawson Scott has just seen the light and joined the world of the bloggers.

Waldorf said...

Yes it's handy for those working in Glasgow - but awkward otherwise. The Dinner, Drama and Dram occasional events are worth keeping an eye out for. It's a bit of a pot luck - but that's half the fun.

Thanks for the heads up about Robert Dawson Scott - I've added him to our Blogroll. And I did agree with your comments on his CATS awards piece. Scottish theatre takes a deserved break really from the end of May/beginning of June. So that would make a much more natural cut off.