For Once, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Pentabus Theatre in association with Sherman Cymru
Tim Price (writer), Orla O’Loughlin (director), Anthony Lamble (designer), Philip Gladwell (lighting design), Christopher Shutt (sound designer), Tim Middleton (associate sound designer), Chris Bagust (production manager)
Jonathan Smith (Sid), Geraldine Alexander (April), Patrick Driver (Gordon)
Running time

Welsh writer Tim Price’s first, full-length play, For Once, was born out of a writer’s workshop held in Ludlow by  Pentabus Theatre. The theatre company has established a body of pioneering work that explores the connections between people and places, dealing with “issues and stories from beyond the urban centres.”

Price spent time in Ludlow, the former home of the head office of Slow Food, an organisation of which Pentabus is a member, that believes “gastronomy is…tied to politics, agriculture and the environment.”

He learned that the youth he spoke to there felt dissociated from the town’s foodie reputation. He linked this with observations about teenage road deaths and this became the germ for the character Sid who survived the car accident that is the pivot for events in For Once.

Set in a lived-in kitschy kitchen, this mildly comic play takes the form of monologues from the three characters, parents April and Gordon and teenage son, Sid, giving their inner perspectives on the tragedy of the car crash that involved Sid and his 3 young friends.

They live in a very small Trumpton–like town that ironically seemed a safe place to bring up children but tragedy doesn’t need a passport.  Searching for, in Sid’s words, “somewhere…that doesn’t chuck people out for making a coffee last 3 hours” brought about their particular tragedy.  

He was maybe hankering for the cool coffee bars of yester year, but was sadly referring to a famous fast food chain who, by their very name, would not encourage that.  His disaffection with local middle class gastronomy was disastrously misplaced.

At the risk of sounding like Willy Russell’s Rita when she submitted her first essay on Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, I think that this play would work well on the radio. The tightly written stream of consciousness monologues from the well-observed characters were strong enough in their own right and as there was no physical interaction between the characters till the very last moment when this family finally worked together, it was the voices that carried the play.

The disparate deliveries were clearly symbolic of the separate lives lived within this small family. The highly detailed set with real food, real drinks, real ironing, a real tap, possibly a real fridge and a real-time clock seemed like gilding the lily.

Show times

Wed 4 – Sat 14 April, 7.30pm. Matinee Sat 7 & 14 April, 2.30pm

Tues – Thurs & Sat Matinees £15/£11/£6. Fri & Sat £17/£13

For Once opened at Hampstead Theatre in 2011, before touring nationally in association with Sherman Cymru, and this is the Scottish Premiere. Recently appointed Traverse Artistic Director and former Artistic Director of Pentabus, Orla O’Loughlin, directs the play.