Six and a Tanner by Rony Bridges

The set for this lunchtime drama at ?ranM?r was simple and elegant - the stage in the centre with a vibrant scarlet cloth intriguingly covering something. This turns out to be a coffin containing the body of Joe's father. In Rony Bridges' play about the relationship between an abusive father and his son Joe (David Hayman), who is the sole character.

Steeped in pathos and black humour it depicts the story of a wee boy growing up in a home where he is not wanted. The subject matter of 'Six and a Tanner' is harsh and made to seem even more cruel because David MacLennan, the producer, informs the audience at the outset that it is based on a true story, yet almost from the word go there is laughter. The imagery is vivid and the delivery marvellous - David Hayman is truly excellent. A master of his craft he holds the audience in the palm of his hand throughout this demanding portrayal.

We learn about his childhood and we are with the little boy when his father begrudgingly tells him that his Christmas present did not come from Santa but that he had made it and that the hinges for his toy garage had cost him six and a tanner. We share his anguish when his cheap home made toys are used for fire-wood and we cringe at his fear of the family pet then his despair at its death. This is no pussy cat but a wild cat acquired by his drunken father, which he ends up killing and dumping in the rubbish. In this dire home there is disappointment and trauma a plenty.

The script sweeps us along through the bleakness of the relationship and the harshness experienced by Joe as a child. It tells of the lack of love and dearth of family loyalty, which he finds difficult to come to terms with as an adult. With his father lying dead in his coffin it is Joe's mission to find his father again and ultimately deal with his death.

However, it is not a drab or maudlin piece of work and there is enjoyment in seeing the pleasure young Joe manages to create for himself with his Roy Rodger's gun and we sense his spirit of entrepreneurship and adventure as he runs errands for the local bookie.

The play is thoroughly enjoyable and deals with a wide gamut of emotions. It highlights some of the less attractive stereotypical aspects of the West of Scotland character through the father's inability to show kindness to the child. However, perhaps the key to its success is in exposing Joe's introspection and reflection, whilst more than tinged with bitterness, it is not consummately grim. It is not so much a play about revenge as the realisation and rejection of hypocrisy.

There was synergy in bringing a small, local team together to produce something much greater even than the strength of the parts; with Rita McGurn and Lauren Brown responsible for design, Rony Bridges, director and writer, David MacLennan, Producer and David Hayman a most welcome sight back on the boards after a 16 year's absence.

Review by Pat Byrne, March 2006