Edinburgh Fringe 2012
A middle aged man is left alone with the coffin of his dead father to say goodbye. This is a bitter sweet farewell as he recounts his childhood and the resentments brought on by the harsh father and the stories of childhood memories show us a man pent up with feelings that need to spill out.
This is playwright Rony Bridges’ story. A man in his fifties is off to say goodbye to the man who dragged him up. More by the scruff of his neck than by the loving and caring needed to nurture a child we are treated to the harsh realities of a society before a welfare state and the type of social work help that so many of our children now have as a safety net. From set piece to set piece this starts to deliver an appalling tale but some where around the 45 minute mark it starts to be a retread. We find ourselves hearing yet another example of how bad things were. Never less than compelling it is this lack of narrative drive that makes you wander. The six and a tanner of the title relates to cost one year of a Christmas present and the child’s revenge; delivered with panache right at the end of the piece. Now that, was clever.
Any one man play requires you to engage with the actor and truly feel you are being taken with them. This is quite simply a tour de force. David Hayman has taken this play from the immensely popular, a Play, a Pie and a Pint at the Oran Mor in Glasgow to prisons the length and breadth of Scotland. You can see why. The pent up fury of this man could have ended in violence and crime if he had taken a different turn. We never find out if that is where it has taken him but we do get taken on a fantastic journey that opens up the 1950s and brining up your children in abject poverty. As it is a true story, or at least based on a true childhood, it resonates with authenticity. Hayman delivers with style. Never trying too hard but drawing us into the narrative through the simplicity of action honed over tours and years of experience.
The set is a simple coffin which is opened half way through. I was unaware that anyone was trying to see over to see if anyone was inside but the set was what was required. There was no need to over complicate things. This was a production that allowed the man to do the straight talking and Hayman delivered. It was a piece of theatre that would do well to be studied as a performance piece. That it has been delivered to men incarcerated would be well worthy of some form of study and should demonstrate the power of theatre as a medium for change.
As is clear I loved this piece. It was a bright example of how Fringe Theatre can be used to analyse and perform using a social conscience. The only problem I had was in the number of set pieces that began to feel like a relentless misery poured upon you.