@ Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, until Sat 5 Mar 2016
(part of A Play, A Pie and A Pint)

A near full house at The Lemon Tree watch the first production from the new season of A Play, A Pie & A Pint.

Directed by Liz Carruthers, the play is set in a manse in the Scottish Highlands, home to the Reverend Martin Carmichael and his wife Sarah. Martin and Sarah are a couple whose long-term relationship appears to have descended into obligation, drudgery and domesticity, facts which both resent. They show this resentment via a relay of constant verbal attacks. These may have been light-hearted years ago but are now increasingly cutting. The arrival of a young stranger during the night escalates the sparring between the couple to a breaking point. Will their stormy relationship survive this stormy night?

A lot of credit goes to the principal actors Helen Logan and Alan Steele. The feeling of comfort that they show around each other is authentically done. The monologue from Helen feels realistic and is very warmly received by the audience, who also find their squabbling amusing in parts.

However, there does seem to be an issue with pace in the play. At only 45 minutes run time, there is an expectation that there might be an escalation of the barbed comments, but instead there are lot of silences. One of these works very well. However, at one point we are actually waiting for a kettle to boil. Couples who have reached this crisis point in their relationships are often meaner and more cruel than we are seeing here. It is at this point the play loses some of its realism. Where’s the rage, or threat, or venom? Or the crushing insult or withering rebuke? Regardless, there is some clever word-play and the script is tight, if tame.

Another distraction was a lack of attention to habitual behaviours and physical details. Characters so set in their ways don’t chair-hop so conveniently, “wet” chairs aren’t sat upon without “drying” them first, and people who are drinking this much knock things over, become even more contrary and loud as the effects of alcohol wear on.

Despite this, the audience enjoy the performance and there is real warmth in the room. This is George Docherty’s first produced play and with its focus on the human condition makes for an interesting debut. Here’s hoping his future ventures continue to build on this promise.