Second Hand

It’s not immediately obvious where Second Hand is located; Jonathan Scott’s set for this latest production in the Spring 2016 season of “A Play, a Pie and a Pint”, at Glasgow’s Òran Mór, feels like a bedsit – cramped, dull and worn round the edges. Yet it’s only through hints in the dialogue that we realise this is actually meant to be the back room of a small antique shop, albeit one that we’re told now holds more “second hand crap” than antiques.

Director Mark Saunders keeps everything moving speedily along, and he’s certainly cast the roles well

Its owner, 71 year old Jim (a twinkly-enough Finlay McLean), would probably include himself among that second hand rubbish now. However, much to his annoyance, his quiet morning is soon interrupted. There’s the annoying – but very much expected – arrival of home-help Alison (Elaine Mackenzie Ellis,who initially has little to do but is able to build up some pathos later on). However, the play effectively starts with the unexpected, through-the-roof arrival of an previously unknown squatter in the attic – 19 year old neighbour Ash (Cameron Cunningham) who, having nowhere else to go after being thrown out by his aunt further up the street, has been lurking among the street’s eaves ever since.

The heart of Paul Charlton’s short play is how this odd couple – opposites in terms of attitude, understanding of the modern world, and (of course) age – eventually start to find ways to communicate, both in terms of emotions and their very different perspectives of a world in which – according to Jim – "people are not interested in beauty any more”. Especially when it’s old.

For the most part Charlton's script is fairly light-hearted: it has fun with Jim’s dismissal of Ash’s “BBC Three-style comedy” which he insists requires a lobotomy, but there’s a tinge of sadness too in his assertion that he doesn’t believe in hope, “full stop”. But the pair eventually open up somewhat: Jim about how he still misses his wife of 45 years; Ash’s thoughts on the father he’s never known. Occasional confusions arise as they enter a kind of role-play for each other’s benefit; just enough, it seems, to help turn this wannabe Scrooge into someone willing to employ “the echo effect” – what you get back in life depends on what you put in – and meet the OAP across the road for a cup of tea.

Director Mark Saunders keeps everything moving speedily along, and he’s certainly cast the roles well: McLean and Cunningham in particular gel well together. All the same, while entertaining enough, it’s lacking something to make it truly memorable. 

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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The Blurb

Seventy one year old Jim lives alone in the back room of his low-end antique shop that barely makes ends meet. Without any family around, and only the occasional visits from homecare worker Lorna, Jim lives a lonely and grumpy existence; that is, until the young Ash – who has been secretly squatting in Jim’s loft – comes, literally, crashing into his life.

Second Hand is a gentle, feel good comedy following two men from very different generations as they try to navigate the modern world as members of the “next” and “last” generations.

A funny and sometimes touching allegory for modern living.

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