JOYCE MCMILLAN on DIGGING UP DAD at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 29.8.07
4 stars ****
LATER THIS AUTUMN, the Oran Mor Play, Pie and Pint lunchtime theatre season will present its 100th new play in just over three years. For producer David MacLennan and his team, it’s been a stunning achievement, crowned last week when David Anderson’s post-modern oratorio Tir Nan Og won the Best New Musical prize on the Edinburgh Fringe; and now the show goes on, with a 15-week autumn season featuring short plays by David Greig, Peter Arnott and Rona Munro, among many others.
This week’s opening show, by Vivien Adam, is a pleasantly observant comedy whipped up into a seriously enjoyable show by three of Scotland’s finest actresses – Eileen McCallum, Cora Bissett and Jenny Ryan – and director Maggie Kinloch, who loads Adam’s modest text with a full-scale garden set, and a backing film that almost constitutes a Tartan Short in itself. Eileen McCallum plays Fran, a 73-year old widow who has finally met a new man, but is reluctant to leave the ashes of her late husband buried in the garden of the old family home; so she calls on her two thirtysomething daughters – unhappily married Denise, and single tomboy Zoe – to come and hellp her dig up Dad.
Over 55 minutes or so, they argue and tussle over family memories, over their own emotional failures, and over Fran’s wish to move on. Adam is particularly brilliant, and funny, about the way mothers, sisters and daughters can often say the most unerringly hurtful things to each other, without any conscious intention to wound; and if the long-drawn-out search for the ashes eventually becomes a shade irksome, she nonetheless creates three powerful and credible characters. A faint alarm-bell always sounds, for any new-play theatre, when the production values begin to look more impressive than the scripts; but otherwise, for Play, Pie and Pint at Oran Mor, the future looks bright.