JOYCE MCMILLAN on DIG at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 5.10.11
4 stars ****
IN A lopsided blue armchair, a former builder called Tommy sits brooding, and trying to read his newspaper. On the arm of the chair perches his wife Brenda, determined to breach his peace by talking about the family’s problems. At first, these seem routine, ordinary worries about the kids. Soon, though, we realise that the malaise goes deeper; and when Tommy is forced into a confrontation with his bad-lot brother Dean, just out of prison, we begin to grasp that he has been out of work for ten months, and is in deep denial about the fact that eviction looms, both from the luxury home that has been his pride and joy, and possibly from his long, happy marriage.
Politicians talk a great deal about the need to “get Britain back to work”; but it takes a small masterpiece like this latest play by Katie Douglas – presented in a 45-minute lunchtime co-production by Play, Pie and Pint and Paines Plough – to dig below the surface of the words, into the infinite layers of pain that ripple outward from a man abruptly bereft, by forces far beyonds his control, of his key role as family provider. Tommy – brilliantly played by Stewart Porter – is the living image of a society in which real effort, and a willingness to live by the rules, is not rewarded; he finds himself scrabbling for the same fly-by-night jobs as his jailbird brother, a humiliation he can scarcely bear.
The play’s title, though, also reflects the thousand ways in which ordinary people have to dig deep into their own resources of love, self-worth, forgiveness and shared strength in order to survive such a profound crisis; and by the end of this rich and shattering slice of lunchtime drama – which arrives at the Traverse next week – it looks as though Tommy, with the help of Louise Ludgate’s superb, richly-characterised Brenda, may just have a chance of making it.