Monday, 4 June 2012

A Play, A Pie and A Pint - The CATS Whiskers


When David MacLennan founded A Play, A Pie and A Pint at Oran Mor in 
2004, his first season of lunchtime plays with refreshments included in 
the ticket price was a modest affair. Eight years on, and having 
presented some 250 new works, as MacLennan gets set to receive the 
Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland's inaugural CATS Whiskers award 
for Outstanding Achievement, A Play, A Pie and A Pint now looks like a 
genuine theatrical phenomenon that was seriously ahead of the game.

With initial seasons seemingly pulled together with the help of 
MacLennan's extensive address book of Scottish theatre movers and 
shakers, it was as if those seemingly left in the theatrical wilderness 
after grants for companies such as the MacLennan-led Wildcat company 
had been cut had suddenly rediscovered their mojo. With no tradition of 
lunchtime theatre in Scotland, A Play, A Pie and A Pint served up works 
 from veteran writers such as Peter MacDougall that were more serious 
than the sort of froth one might expect from such a forum. Actors such 
as David Hayman and Robbie Coltrane took to the stage for the first  
time in years. Pretty soon, writers such as David Greig, David 
Harrower, Jo Clifford, Morna Pearson and many others grew ever bolder 
in form and content in what had become a low-risk showcase for writers 
to explore short-form playwriting with often startling results.

Connections were forged, first with Bewley's Lunchtime Theatre in 
Dublin, then with the Traverse, the National Theatre of Scotland and 
others. Many plays at Oran Mor have found second or third lives, and 
the Play, Pie and A Pint web is now far-reaching, with the current One 
Day in Spring mini-season of middle eastern writers the perfect example 
of how ambitious the work has become. All this without a penny of 
direct public funding.

When A Play, A Pie and A Pint began, the recession had yet to hit arts 
funding. Now, with theatre companies forced to be creative with limited 
budgets, MacLennan and co look like pioneers.
With Creative Scotland's review of how it funds major arts companies 
currently causing justifiable anger among the artists Creative Scotland 
serves, A Play, A Pie and A Pint is a glaring example of how artist-led 
initiatives can thrive in difficult times. Watch and learn, Creative 
Scotland, because A Play, A Pie and A Pint really is the CATS Whiskers.

Critics Awards For Theatre in Scotland, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Sunday 
June 10th, 3pm

The Herald, June 4th 2012

ends

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