A Play, A Pie and A Pint is back after its summer hiatus. For those not familiar with the format, it’s fairly self-explanatory. If you do find yourself running late for the start, your pie and pint (or wine or soft drink) will still be available at the end. The Traverse Bar is a great place to hang out, so a pie and drink before or after adds to the experience and offers a cultural alternative for city workers’ lunch breaks.
Pleading is the first play of this Autumn’s selection (A Play, A Pie and A Pint runs for two seasons a year) and is a contemporary piece telling the story of two young Scots Michael and Freya, who find themselves incarcerated in a grimy foreign jail. Unfortunately, it’s not an unusual story and explores the all too prevalent issues of UK citizens who find themselves caught up in drug trafficking. Whether they’re involvement is intentional or otherwise, it’s unclear for most of this and purposely so, as the story of what actually happened between packing their bags and being arrested at customs, unfolds. Scenes revolve around meetings with a seemingly suspicious but kindly lawyer and the intervening dialogues between the two accused teenagers.
The ending is abrupt and that’s all I can say to avoid any spoiler alerts, but it’s quite unsatisfying. The plot has some interesting twists, but isn’t especially exciting or offering anything startlingly original in terms of concept and theme. That said, it’s an engaging enough story that has the audience wondering throughout, mystery style. There’s some good acting going on too, particularly that of Daniel Cameron who really wins our empathy and gets us on side. His portrayal of the pedantic and apparently reliable Michael is nuanced, subtle, funny and utterly believable. Kim Allan plays the petulant, naïve and angry Freya, while Nicole Cooper is their legal representative as Amelia, the humanitarian lawyer who wants to help, but knows she’s not getting the full story.
The setting and design are simple, so not trickery with lighting or sets is required and simple sound effects give the impression of heavy doors slamming closed and locks clinking into place. It’s a grim reality to be faced with – the inevitability of a trial for drug smuggling in a foreign country, especially for those at such a young age with their lives ahead of them. Let’s hope that this serves as a warning, particularly to those of more tender years who may be naive enough to find themselves in such a terrifying and preventable situation.
Pleading runs until 7th October at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.