JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE HAPPIEST DAY OF BRENDAN SMILLIE’S LIFE at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 8.11.14. _________________________________________________________
2 stars **
THERE’S SOMETHING pleasingly symmetrical about Catherine Grosvenor’s surreal comedy, which transferred to Oran Mor this week after a successful reading at the Traverse earlier this year. There’s Brendan, a mildly autistic sort of guy with loads of charm, who works on the deli counter of the local supermarket. There’s Brendan’s unseen fiancee, Camilla, who turns out – deep breath – to be a llama. There’s Brendan’s wedding planner, the ditsy and disorganised Jenny; and there’s Brendan’s control-freak brother Liam, his official guardian following the sad death of their parents in a hot-air balloon accident.
It’s therefore a play which, in a crazy way, raises all sorts of issues – about love, and grieving, and autonomy, and the strange routes by which we sometimes travel to find ourselves. At heart, though, it’s a romantic comedy, driven forward by Brendan’s gradual recognition that Jenny is really the woman for him; and the problem with Caitlin Skinner’s production for A Play, A Pie And A Pint is that it misses out on the romance, and therefore falls flat on its face. Ross Allan plays Brendan not as an autistic man, but as big kid in a bad jumper; Cat Grozier’s Jenny is more like a junior Madam Arcati – eccentric, overbearing and weird – than a slightly scatty romantic heroine in search of her hero. And the exaggerated attempt to be wacky and funny leaves all three actors stranded, in a production that muffles the good-hearted, surreal subtlety of Grosvenor’s text by trying too hard to entertain, and by not taking the characters seriously enough.