Knocking off work a little early on Friday, I headed over to London Bridge station where the entrance to Shunt Vaults can be found. This sprawling underground space is playing host to Paines Plough’s latest venture: A Play, A Pie and A Pint.
That’s theatre food and alcohol wrapped up in one neat little package, I obviously had to investigate. I was accompanied on this most strenuous of research exercises by Helen Smith. Neither of us had been inside Shunt vaults before, so were unsure what to expect as an usher led us through the (very) dark meandering corridors to a small, better lit space where we queued for the titular pies and pints – or in my case a glass of red.
For the play part of the evening, we were then herded up a small flight of stairs. The performance space itself was of an ‘intimate’ nature, encompassing a scattering of chairs. There were no tables and the seats were quite close together, but it was just about possible to tackle my pie and wine without upending either in my lap. The play itself, the first of four, was David Greig’s Being Norwegian, a simple sketch of a thing about a man and a woman who meet in a bar. It was a neat, nicely performed two-hander which managed to be both amusing and also quite poignant. It was also only around 45 minutes long so, with a start time of 6pm, it left us with much of the evening to spare afterwards. Fortunately tickets also allow you to linger in the Shunt Vaults themselves, an atmospheric space, a bit self-consciously ramshackle, but actually a rather appealing venue in which to while away the night.
At this point things get a little hazy, as accustomed to the Theatre component of my evening finishing at a slightly later hour, the repeated trips to the bar rather took their toll on me. I suspect I was rather, um, exuberant; certainly the friends we ran into at a later stage in the evening (when I dragged Helen off to Canteen on the South Bank) took every opportunity to snigger when I caught up with them on the weekend.
The whole Play, Pie and Pint experience struck me as a neatly alliterative gimmick at first, entertaining but perhaps a little wobbly in execution. However, it was fun enough for me to want to go back later in the month and catch one of the other plays, perhaps with some more people in tow, though I’ll understand if Helen decides to have ‘other plans’ that night.