City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Down and Out in Paris, Pleasance Courtyard, Review

By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 11 August 2015

Down and Out in Paris production image
Show details
PIT/New Diorama Theatre
Running time: 
David Byrne and Kate Stanley (directors) David Byrne (writer)
Mike Aherne (ragged man, Job Centre Manager, Chef, Pawn shop owner, Brighthouse Satlesman), Richard Delancy (George Orwell), Andy McLeod (one-eyed Jules, Boris), Andrew Strafford-Baker (the artist, Johno, young waiter, Communist Publisher, Breakfast chef), Carole Street (Madame F, Polly Toynbee), Stella Taylor (Russian Mother housing officer, Carole, temp Agency worker, Mistress, Porter, Consultant)

In the 1930’s George Orwell shed his privileged background and stayed in Paris, scratching out a living amongst those who were perpetually impoverished and when he returned to Britain he recounted his experience in his novel ‘Down and Out in Paris.’

Polly Townbee, The Guardian newspaper journalist and broadcaster, had a similar experience when she chose to see "how the other half live" which eventually became her book ‘Hard work. Hard Work.’ This show is a dramatization of both their accounts.

Waiting for the show to begin was reminiscent of Toynbee waiting for an interview at the Job Centre.

Finally, it began. With a cast of six, the characters represented individuals in Paris then London. The show started with Richard Delaney as Orwell. Delaney portrayed the character well and the stage direction and script relating to Paris kept up a good pace, particularly when it came to the scene illustrating the frenetic atmosphere in a kitchen of a busy restaurant where Orwell was working for a pittance.

When it came to Toynbee’s character, portrayed by Carole Street, the facts and figures she narrated during scenarios, illustrating the marginalisation of those in society who work for minimal wages and minimal recognition, could have been better dramatized. It is important to be made aware of how disadvantaged many people are but it would have felt less pedantic if the information had been imparted via a dialogue.

However, the essence of the show is to highlight the divisions implicit in our society and the scenes and a simple set – a double door frame on wheels used as a transition between various scenarios, and a single bed on wheels – worked effectively to create that atmosphere.

Runs til 31 August. £9.50/£12.50