City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Barflies Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 09 August 2009

The Barony
Show details
Barony Bar
Grid Iron
Running time: 
Ben Harrison (director and adaptor), Catrin Evans (assistant director), Judith Doherty (producer), Becky Minto (set/costume designer), Paul Claydon (lighting designer)
Keith Fleming (Henry), Gail Watson (Cass, Vicky, Vivienne, Sarah), David Paul Jones (Silent Dave)

Had Lady Caroline Lamb survived long enough to encounter Charles Bukowski, her summary opinion might have been as neat and accurate as that on Lord Byron – ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’.

Yet Bukowski’s many fans would argue his greatest danger was to himself. Prolific, genuinely contemptuous of wealth and recognition, Bukowski’s search is that of all of us; for love, acceptance and the fragile security offered by another person.

The music hall chorus ‘If women like them like men like those’ finds a strange echo in Bukowski’s relations with numerous women, who seem to have had at least as great an effect on him and his writing as he on them. Back, however, to the plot, which is light on story but laden with character, or more properly, characters.

‘Barflies’ propels Bukowski’s alter ego Henry Chinaski through encounter after encounter with women who essentially seek the same things, and the clash of competing egos is mighty, making for seventy five minutes of some of the best theatre you may encounter on this year’s Fringe.

From the opening chords of David Paul Jones score to its closing song, ‘Barflies’ pitches and rolls the length of the Barony Bar as Keith Fleming (Henry) and Gail Watson bring Bukowski’s characters to slurring, slipping and sliding life. Fleming and Watson’s physical theatricality matches their delivery and timing, creating palpable electricity in the Barony’s limited space.

The appropriateness of the setting offers echoes of the kinds of lives centred on local bars, and the production was apparently inspired by a chance encounter with a New York ‘bar fly’ who sounds straight out of a Bukowski story herself.

Grid Iron’s solid reputation for site-specific productions takes a slight risk in using its own local as the locale for this show, borne out during the performance seen when lighting difficulties had to be worked around. As might be expected, Grid Iron’s excellent production team coped admirably.

Times: 7-13, 16-20, 21-23, 28-30 August, 3.00pm
24-25 August, 10.00pm

Copyright Bill Dunlop 2009