In for a Penny

In For A Penny is Libby McArthur’s true-life tale of the unforeseen consequences of an unpaid parking ticket - how one person can fall foul of a system that sees only the facts and not the context and how one oversight can spiral to far more serious consequences.

McArthur brings a down-to-earth warmth to her delivery, talking to the audience as though we were her mates.

It’s a pretty simple story and so much of the show’s interest lies in Libby McArthur’s performance. McArthur brings a down-to-earth warmth to her delivery, talking to the audience as though we were her mates, and her delivery in a broad Scots brogue adds to play’s feeling of authenticity (though listen closely or you may miss the show’s closing line). She sketches adeptly the cast of characters around her - from the sadistic judge to the gobby, defiant delinquent Sharon - and her very mobile visage helps us understand at all times exactly how she’s feeling.

However, while McArthur is a engaging stage presence, I found it difficult to get carried away by her tale. This is partly due to her delivery - the warmth and energy occasionally stopping with an almost audible click as she shifts between sections on the show in her head - largely due to the show itself.

In For A Penny bills itself as based on a true-life story and McArthur presents it as her own, but the time-scale jumps all over the place. Its setting in Thatcher’s Britain fits with her being a young mother but seems years out of step with her claims that it happened while she was a national TV star. A minor niggle, but the drama of the piece rests largely on a recognisable face falling foul of circumstance and the struggle to pull the disparate elements of the plot together to maintain this conceit took me out of the story.

Massaging the truth for dramatic effect is perfectly acceptable but, for a show like this, it begs the question what other aspects of the true-life story have been similarly massaged? How many of the events really occurred and which, if any, of the vivid characters are based on truth? Am I watching a true story of how easy it is for anyone to fall through the cracks or a fictional drama which - if fictional - could have a little more drama?

In For A Penny won’t be bringing any massive revelations to its audience but it’s an interesting and at-times relatable story. Get past the awkward joins in the story and see it as an hour passed in McArthur’s company and it’s easy time to serve.

Reviews by Tom King

Underbelly, Cowgate

Lucy Farrett: Lois

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

She Sells Sea Shells

★★★★
Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square / Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

'I'm going to prison for parking tickets!' Ever stuck a brown envelope under the couch, unopened? Libby McArthur (River City, The Steamie) shows us what happened to a woman who did just that. Set in a Scottish court and its holding cells, Libby populates the stage with shoplifters, working girls, lawyers, social workers and parking attendants. A darkly funny tale about how easy it is to freefall out of our cosy existences and into our worst nightmares. Written and directed by Scottish BAFTA winner, David Cosgrove.

Most Popular See More

Grease the Musical

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Cinderella The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets