the 2008 Spring Season of “A Play, A Pie and A Pint” at Glasgow’s Òran Mór,
writer and director Selma Dimitrijevic presented audiences with a delicate,
poignant exploration of the complex emotional dance between a mother and a
daughter, not least the “panic desolation” which affects most of us when we
realise that our parents “do not always have divine intelligence, that their
judgements are not always wise, their thinking true” – what John Steinbeck
described as the “fall of gods” in
with no set or props (beyond a couple of mugs of tea), there’s nothing to distract us from a lean, sinewy script
Eight years on, and Dimitrijevic’s play is back on the road following a successful run during last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. But there’s one noticeable difference from that original Òran Mór run; that featured two female actors – Selina Boyack and Anne Lacey – but this new tour deliberately casts men in the roles, while a real-life mother and daughter from the local area sit watching silently from the sidelines. However, that “noticeable difference” isn’t really noticeable for long; such is the low-key strength of Joe Caffrey's and Max Dunham’s performances (as mother and daughter Alice respectively), the gender switch actually helps underscore the universality of this particular situation, and is soon forgotten.
Roughly the first half of the play is pretty much the same scene – mother and daughter discussing the weather, hot water, tea and an unseen aunt – reiterated with both subtle and not so subtle differences; by the third occasion, it’s clear that the daughter is irritated and frustrated by her mother, not least because she has the audacity to be less than perfect. The fourth and final scene, however, is quite different, not least because of mother and daughter actually have a proper, grown up conversation where few words are spoken, the pauses are long and yet so much is clearly said and understood.
This is a sparse, minimalist production; a black, almost empty performance space within which Caffrey and Runham pace around between scenes, on occasions almost limbering up for a physical representation of their characters’ verbal and emotional dance. But that is as it should be; with no set or props (beyond a couple of mugs of tea), there’s nothing to distract us from a lean, sinewy script in which Dimitrijevic manages to transform everyday banalities into a deeply touching and layered meditation on love, loss and why we should all remember that, when it comes to family, there isn’t “always a next time”.