Monday, November 05, 2007

Plays, Pies and Pints

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.

2 comments:

Statler said...

Pleased to see Glasgow's Oran Mor exporting their "A Play, a Pie and a Pint" concept to London. They have been running them up here for a few years now as a lunchtime venture with much success. Much to my shame I've not made it along to one yet as the lunchtime slot doesn't really work for me, but I have managed to book up for their Wednesday night offering (A Dinner, A Drama & a Dram) later this month for their 100th play (as yet undisclosed and labelled 'a surprise') By all accounts it has provided a wonderful opportunity for new works and I hope it takes hold down their and they can repeat it to include more of the shows from the Glasgow season.

Helen Smith said...

Natasha, you were effervescent and intelligent - perfect company for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

I liked everything about it - the venue, the pie, the free drink that comes with it, the play by David Greig and the wonderful performances.

I had never been to the Shunt Vaults before and the atmosphere of the place contributes to the anticipation and enjoyment as you traipse through it on the way to the studio to see the play.

The staff were lovely, too - bar staff, bouncers, ushers and the 'pie administrators' as I heard them referred to.

I hope they bring 'a dinner, a drama and a dram' to London.