The Origins of Ivor Punch – Traverse Theatre

A Play, a Pie and a Pint is well established lunchtime theatre, spanning fifteen years. As a Glaswegian myself, I have been to many a show and am very happy to see it toured to our nation’s capital. The premise is simple: to warm the audience’s belly with a meaty pastry, relax them with an alcoholic beverage and entertain them with whimsical storytelling. All of this is included in the ticket price.

Today it was Colin MacIntyre’s award-winning The Origins of Ivor Punch, a tragic love story between a ‘hoity-toity’ lady and her peat-covered postman. The story is set on the beautiful Scottish Isle of Mull, but the set remains static and simplistic. It consists of just 3 white chairs, a table and a painted backdrop on cloth. It’s down to the actors to ignite our imagination.

The painted clock tower looms behind the actors. Its presence causes time to blend and become unstuck, allowing the audience to travel back and forth between present day and the 1800’s. As the play begins, a police officer explores the silent, dark room, shining his torch over the other actors and the clock. This mystery and intrigue is broken as the lights flash on and upbeat rock music blasts over the speakers. (No doubt written and performed by MacIntyre himself, it cleverly foreshadows the tale with hidden sorrowful lyrics.) Our first spoken line is littered with Scottish slang and the fword. This stark contrast between the rowdy present and restrictive past is clear throughout.

None demonstrated this as effectively as Tom McGovern, who played both a foul-mouthed vagabond called ‘Randy by name and Randy by nature’ and the infamous Charles Darwin. McGovern gives a standout performance, developing a layered approach to these opposing characters. I could have believed they were played by different actors, demonstrating McGovern’s full impressive range. Andrew John Tait played our dazzling leading man. Tait captures a sweet, gentle nature in Duncan that made the elderly women in the audience swoon. Eva Traynor was very over-pronounced in her actions. Almost like a dancer, she was very interesting to watch but not tethered into the world of the play, I felt. Isabella’s grieving and infamously frosty nature could have been explored more fully with bolder choices. Nonetheless, Traynor always captured my attention and her whimsical energy really added to the piece. She truly was ‘an angel hanging in the air’.

No line was wasted and everything was important. All loose ends tied together to create an impressively woven storyline. However, important sections were missing from the narrative. I would have liked to have seen Henrietta and Duncan’s love blossom past the awkward introductions. It would have pulled on our heart-strings more if we had seen the pair truly comfortable and happy with one another. I also was unsure of Ivor’s place within the tale, what exact relation he had and why he was chosen specifically. I believe his life before and after this discovery should have been more focal in the play.

MacIntyre blends past and present, and incorporates well-known myths and legends into this story of love and loss, bringing us back to basics with this heartfelt traditional tale. Enigmatic Scottish storytelling is alive and well in the form of A Play, a Pie and a Pint. 

PHOTOS: A Play, A Pie, and A Pint

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Rhona Mackay

Rhona Mackay

A 23 year old, working as an actor, writer and director. Born in Glasgow and moved to Edinburgh five years ago to study Acting and English at Edinburgh Napier.
Rhona Mackay

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