Some strains of musette might have been better than the incongruous chanteur that crooned the audience to their places to indicate the setting was in France for this week’s A Play, a Pie and a Pint – Calais.
That said, it was a pleasant surprise to be treated to a period piece this lunchtime as, in spite of the variety of subjects covered in the plays in this series, they usually have a contemporary setting. The title, Calais, comes from where Lady Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress, spent her final days with her daughter, Horatia, after fleeing England to escape her debts. The two women are shown living in dire straits, each with a different world view of how to cope and survive.
In the stark set of straw, stained mattress and empty bottles of vin rouge, the English women who have known better days are played without a hitch. Joanna Bacon captured a deluded Emma with comic skill and ease as she desperately clings to her long gone youthful charms as means of survival.
Louise Ford looked every inch the English aristocrat out of her natural environs who is trying to retain her dignity without sinking to her mother’s level, each character muddling along with degrees of bad French. The aptly named James French played the landlord’s son, Jacques Fournier, beautifully with his dark, liquid Gallic eyes and delightfully authentic French speech.
This is a little bit of female history brought to life in a moving and entertaining way with top performances all round.
While I’m throwing bouquets, I should hurl one in the direction of the Traverse Bar staff. Over the years, I have consistently found them to be helpful, friendly and, most important, efficient. Top marks, guys and gals!
This is the penultimate play of this third season of the fantastic lunchtime theatre event, A Play, A Pie and A Pint, jointly presented by Òran Mór and Paines Plough when, till Saturday 23 October, the Traverse Theatre will be showing five brand new plays by some of the UK and Ireland’s top writers. They will be performed at the Traverse following World premieres at Glasgow’s Òran Mór, then these five co-productions will tour to the Live Theatre in Newcastle, the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and Bewley’s Café Theatre in Dublin, taking A Play, A Pie and A Pint to more people than ever before.
Tues 12 – Sat 16 October (1pm)
Tickets are £12 and include a play, a pie and a pint of Caledonian IPA or McEwan’s 70 Shilling, 175ml glass of wine, regular glass of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Lemonade or Orange Juice.
Next week’s play will be Good with People by David Harrower