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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heaven, Traverse/Play, Pie, Pint review

Published in The Guardian


Òran Mór, Glasgow
3 out of 5

I had assumed Simon Stephens would have reworked his short two-hander since the summer when the Traverse gave it a breakfast reading on the ­Edinburgh fringe. But here it is in a fuller but still bare-bones production for A Play, a Pie and a Pint, the lunchtime theatre season, with the same oddball charm and the same feeling that its deeper meaning is just out of grasp.

On balance, this is a good thing, not least because Heaven's combination of character comedy, plot revelations and philosophical reflection suit the ­laid-back lunchtime format. Give or take the odd fudged line, Dominic Hill's production makes a lively, if elliptical start to a five-play run of Traverse co-productions.

The scene is a departure lounge where two strangers awaiting a flight to Turin fall into a dispute over some ­litter. Kyle (Sean Scanlan), a 67-year-old former pianist is just the sort of ­busybody the younger Sean (Robert Jack) would sooner avoid as he makes a break for freedom from his job in a North Berwick hotel.

What starts as an amusingly pedantic struggle moves into less certain territory. Behind Kyle's fuddy-duddy appearance lies a bit of a radical – and perhaps something of the deus ex machina – although not radical enough to embrace Sean's decision to escape his idyllic ­family life. In place of a predictable kind of heaven, the father of two has opted for the thrill of the unknown.

The unsettling comedy finds a resolution of sorts in Kyle's incongruous rendition of Heaven, the trippy ode to celestial emptiness by Talking Heads. Whether from a beauty spot or an airport, Sean is escaping from a "place where nothing ever happens", like an artist searching for life whatever the personal cost.

Until Saturday. Box office: 0844 477 1000. Then at Traverse, Edinburgh (0131-228 1404), 2-6 March.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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