Noon on a Thursday is no time to be drinking, unless it’s a special occasion, but in the Jinglin’ Geordie off the Royal Mile, with the immersive theatre antics of Not Too Tame, it all seems perfectly respectable.
Entrance is permitted by presenting your tickets to a bouncer who, since he’s bantering with some passers-by, genuinely convinces, until you catch yourself and remember this is Fleshmarket Close on a Thursday lunchtime, not Cowgate on a Saturday night. Similarly, there’s nothing in the way the bar staff serve the clientele, or the way a Northern geezer hands out pub quiz sheets, that raises any alarms, except for the fact that the pub’s uncommonly full.
The spell is soon broken though. A new landlord and landlady have taken over; Paddy (Jimmy Fairhurst), a Lancashire Danny Dyer, and his sister Beth (Emily Stott), who has ambitions to leave and take a degree, have inherited the pub from their mother. They emerge into our midst from behind the bar to tell us their story, but do so in rhyming couplets. Why this form when they could address us in a style more fitting for their characters and the setting is not clear. Similarly, a couple of song and dance routines take us out of the moment and into the stage school. OK, so one of them is Elbow’s Forget Myself, a tune appropriate to a Lancastrian pub setting, but it still feels very showbiz.
Otherwise, the characterisation is great. Particularly strong are the bouncer Chris (Anthony Wright-Wilson) – think Paddy McGuinness in Phoenix Nights for the vibe – and quizmaster Steve (Andrew Butler), who has bitterly rejigged the questions to make points about his ex-partner and the kids he no longer sees. He’s Ralf Little in Two Pints of Lager… given the life prospects of Rob Brydon in Marion and Geoff, and it’s funny stuff. There’s a wacky pub “character”, Bunny (Alex Griffin-Griffiths) who gets his moment in a funny urinal scene (we’re not taken into the actual urinals), and a Tina Turner dance-off between our bouncer’s former love, Leah (Louise Haggerty), and pub singer, Joanna B. (Hanna Jarman), who also gets a moment in the spotlight to sing about her own love woes. It’s rounded off by wise bar manager Luisa (Jessica Hayles), who’s been around long enough to know how to fix the sibling squabbles of the landlord and lady.
It could probably use an older character or two to make it feel more authentic, but Early Doors enthusiastically performed and makes for a fun theatre experience. The company’s stated aim to break down the boundaries of “tame, polite theatre” is a good one, and they achieve that here in a performance which reaches out to a new audience.