Tina Macfarlane has a first in Actuarial Maths from Glasgow University - ‘A real university, not a polytechnic like Strathclyde’ - but there’s a recession on, so it’s not much use when there’s nothing to count. So Tina ends up as a Bingo caller in the Paradise Island Bingo Hall, dealing with deranged pensioners, a groping barman, and a manager with a penchant for bizarre and irrelevant proverbs such as ‘A fish always rots from the head down’. She learns the trade, endures motivational speakers, and reaches the final of Bingo Caller of the Year. Does she win? Go and find out…
Shows about working class culture for middle-class audiences are always slightly suspect. However, there’s not a whiff of patronisation here. You sense that Louise Haggerty, who is the writer and performer, has been there, done it, and come out with a great affection for the milieu. She plays a whole gallery of characters, male and female, young and old, all sharply differentiated and very funny. Particularly effective are Rita, a potty-mouthed Indian pensioner, and the Bingo Guru who offers up tips for ‘This season’s hottest colours for felt tip markers.’
This is a model of how to perform a solo show. Haggerty is totally on top of her material and sharp as a whippet. What’s more, she uses the story, which could have been a run-of-the-mill comedy, to suggest something altogether deeper and more serious – the way that a high achiever has to come to terms with the real world and so reduces her expectations, but finds that what’s on offer is not so bad after all.
It’s rare for a reviewer to complain that something is too short. However, at 35 minutes this could certainly bear expansion to a full hour. Louise Haggerty has the talent both as writer and performer to do it.