American film actor and comedian Bill Murray allegedly fields offers of work via a voice mailbox which, according to Wikipedia, “he checks infrequently”. This endearingly bizarre approach provides both the start and close of the latest collection of short performance pieces presented by the Village Pub Theatre.
Directed skilfully by Caitlin Skinner and Caro Donald, the cast of four did the writing proud.
Located in the back room of a no-frills Leith pub, with their increasingly enthusiastic audience gathered on a gallimaufry of seats, stools and fold-up chairs—the lucky few in the “front row”relaxing on some slightly lived-in leather sofas—the lack of theatrical frills ensures that the focus of Village Pub Theatre is definitely on the writing and performance. (The home baking on sale at the back is just a brilliant extra.)
Writer Sophie Good kicked things off well with a succession of messages on Murray’s answerphone from an increasingly delusional wannabe-Edinburgh filmmaker trying to get the star interested in his directorial debut, “Being Bill Murray”. Interestingly, another novice filmmaker hoping to pique the actor’s interest was also the seed of the final piece, although Lisa Keddie’s “Made Up Story”rightfully came up with a darker emotional punch.
Between the two was a range of short works. In “Bob”, Samuel Jameson quickly sketched out what appeared to be the simple tale told by a retired postman entertaining his young granddaughter about how he once managed to better a garden full of hostile gnomes. Regular Village Pub Theatre contributor Jonathan Holt, meantime, offered a far more conceptual “Backstory”, in which three “characters”meet in Bill Murray’s subconscious, waiting to be used.
Murray’s alleged habit of “gatecrashing”other people’s lives, and warning ordinary members of the public that “No one will ever believe you,”was given an emotive twist by Lousie E Knowles in “Life On Mars”, told from the point of view of a panic-stricken new father who meets the actor in the maternity ward. Last but one in the running order, J A Sutherland opted instead to focus on the implicit repetition at the core of the film Groundhog Day, in which a man dream-remembers a hellish “double date”with his supposed friend “Competitive Dave”. Though complete in itself, this scene clearly suggested far wider narratives which would be worth exploring further.
Directed skilfully by Caitlin Skinner and Caro Donald, the cast of four did the writing proud. Samuel Jameson (who appeared in all the works bar his own) was particularly notable for his vocal flexibility and bodily physicality, while Jamie Gordon, Belle Jones and Elspeth Tuner all excelled in imparting the spirit of the writing and their wide range of characters. Excellent stuff. (And I don’t just mean the home-made cookies.)