JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE ODDEST COUPLE at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 6.5.09
3 stars ***
IT’S BANK HOLIDAY Monday in Glasgow, and the lunchtime crowds flocking into Oran Mor to escape the rain have caused something of a crisis in the pie department, at this week’s Play Pie and Pint premier. It’s not just the huge, damp crowd, though, that creates a strange atmosphere around the first performance of this latest play by Still Game star Clare Hemphill. For to watch this short family drama about middle-aged couple Ken and Miriam – a Yorkshireman and an Irishwoman living in Glasgow – is to have the oddest sense of glimpsing a slice of a much larger story. Both Ken and Miriam are devout Catholics; and at first, as they pray and banter, the show seems like one of those gentle comedies about a grumpy middle-aged couple who love one another really.
With the arrival of their daugher Tess, though, something darker begins to emerge: a real sense of emotional dysfunction behind the jokes, darkening the lives of the couple’s six children. None of this is very coherently worked out, over just 50 minutes; Hemphill can’t quite decide how brave she wants to be, in blaming Ken and Miriam for the emotional bleakness they may have passed on. But her script contains enough weird, observant and sometimes brilliant detail to give Geraldine Plunkett as Miriam, and an inspired Ron Donachie as Ken, material for two strikingly fine performances; and at the end, I was left wondering when I’d be seeing this Glasgow George and Mildred again.