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Reviews Manchester Published 20 October 2011

Dig

Royal Exchange Studio ⋄ 19th - 21st October, and touring

Katie Douglas’ taut domestic drama.

John Murphy

A Pie, A Pint & A Play has become something of an institution in Glasgow, since its inception seven years ago in a pub theatre in the City’s West End, Oran Mor. The brilliantly simple idea – buy a ticket to see a 45 minute play and have a free pint and pie included in the cost of admission – caught on slowly but surely. In 2007 there was a short run of Plays, Pies and Pints in London’s Shunt Vaults and now Oran Mor have teamed up with touring company Paines Plough to take the concept around the country. And it’s a brilliant concept, one which could well tempt the curious into seeing more live theatre. It’s also well timed, designed to be seen at either lunchtime or straight after work – the times of day where a pie and a pint are most welcome.

There are three plays in this season, showcasing new playwrights, the first of which is Katie Douglas’ three-hander, Dig, an all too relevant account of a couple’s marriage coming under strain from the effects of recession. Tommy has been out of work for 10 months, and the arrival of his jailbird brother, with the offer of a job driving taxis, causes a rift with his wife, Brenda.

It’s a simple idea, but over the resulting 45 minutes a surprisingly large emotional terrain is covered by George Perrin’s production. Tommy and Brenda begin by bantering in that comfortable way that married couples do and worrying about their son’s behaviour. There’s a touch of Caroline Aherne’s Royle Family to these early scenes, with Stewart Porter brilliantly naturalistic in the role of Tommy. When Tommy’s brother Dean shows up, things take a darker turn. Tommy’s resentment and pride rise to the surface and the audience are left to witness a relationship on the point of implosion. Douglas’ dialogue is sharply written and well observed and the intimate setting means that the audience almost feel as if they’re intruding on this family drama. The play is also impressively topical, even touching on this summer’s riots at one point.

Both Porter and Louise Ludgate are compelling as the central couple. Ludgate’s climatic monologue, a desperate plea to save her marriage, is impossibly affecting while Proctor moves deftly from laconic husband at the play’s start to a shaking mess of a man by the play’s end. Simon McAllum brings a degree of ambiguity to the less showy role of Dean;  even by the end he leaves a question mark hanging over whether he’s a changed character or not.

At less than an hour, it’s a tribute to Douglas’ skill as a writer that we want to know more about these characters and their lives, the outcome of their story. The closing scene offers a chink of hope but no clear resolution, yet remains a touching end to an affecting play.

And the pie? The pie was pretty tasty as well.

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John Murphy

John is the former editor of, and current contributor to, musicOMH. He lives in Sheffield, in the shadow of the famous Crucible and Lyceum theatres, and also reviews in nearby Leeds and Manchester. John is also a huge fan of stand-up comedy, and can be often be found in one of Sheffield's comedy clubs, laughing like a madman.

Dig Show Info


Directed by George Perrin

Written by Katie Douglas

Cast includes Stewart Porter, Louise Ludgate, Simon Macallum

Link http://www.royalexchange.org.uk

Running Time 45 mins

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