Mary Woodward Review

The Persians, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

A Play, a Pie and a Pint: The Persians by Meghan Tyler

**** (4 stars)

Not my cup of tea, but the audience greatly appreciated it: and yet again LIES are central to the drama…

This time it’s Westminster politicians: Ian, a stereotypical [Eton, money, privilege] Conservative is joined in his office by Mary, a young DUP MP and Kirsty, a more established Scottish politician whose affiliation is never spelt out [unless you are more au fait with political nuances than I am – which wouldn’t be hard].  Mary and Kirsty expect that a more representative cross-party group will join them to discuss some proposed legislation which it gradually becomes clear is the re-introduction of the death penalty. 240,000 people have signed a petition calling for its reinstatement: Kirsty feels that the matter should come before the House, but Ian is trying to do a behind-the-scenes deal to come up with a concrete proposal for a piece of legislation.

There is a lot of political sniping and bitching, interlarded with topical references, before the women refuse to co-operate and try to leave.  They are driven back by an ambush of reporters, and are convinced that Ian has somehow leaked news of the meeting and is trying to force them into making some kind of cross-party statement.  They realise that they will be unable to leave for some time, so get out Ian’s port… disco/ glitterball carousing through the night then follows, with an inevitable selfie at some point. The cold clear light of day and debilitating hangovers morph into panic as the three realise it’s lunchtime and they have been incommunicado for half a day: they try to work out a way to twist the truth and explain their absence.  Kirsty and Mary are appalled to discover that Ian has a report which he had failed to show them “because it leans the wrong way and is too vague”.  They eventually reach a position of agreeing to say that they had argued bitterly all night but had come to the conclusion that the time is not right for considering the matter.

The women try to leave again but are once more besieged by reporters and driven back into Ian’s office, where he is listening in mounting horror to the flood of messages pouring out of his answering machine. Increasingly distraught messages urging Ian to contact ‘Frank’: when finally he does, it becomes clear that “Portgate” is a trending scandal.  All three watch in mounting horror and despair the video they drunkenly made during the night in which they affirm their support of the death penalty and list the people who should suffer it.  Their political careers seem to be at an end – but in the ensuing blackout a newsreader announces that Ian has just been asked by the Queen to serve as Prime Minister to replace Ms May…

What’s the connection with the Persians?  Mary tells us early in the play that they would get roaring drunk in order to make political decisions, and then have to agree to stick to them through the next morning’s hangover.  They also had the delightful habit of forcing their enemies to drink and be covered in milk and honey before being tied out in the sun and sand to be eaten to death by worms, flies and maggots…delightful knowledge gained from her daughter’s school project.  Was Ian trying a similar tactic?

There was much laughter and snorts of agreement/ recognition from the audience, who clearly loved the situation. The play was well-acted, but I found the characters and dialogue too stereotypical to be entirely credible – caricatures, rather then well-rounded portraits of fallible human beings [but maybe this is what politicians become, even if, like Mary, they start off simply wanting to “make things better”.  The video idea was good, and cleverly reacted to – but I felt it went on rather too long [as perhaps well-oiled people tend to do].  There wasn’t a huge amount of debate of the death penalty itself, but plenty of rigid “I’m right and you’re wrong” from both sides, with Mary finally announcing “there’ll be no epiphany here”. Each side was too convinced of its righteousness and too entrenched behind its own political bulwarks to have any hope of achieving real communication or co-operation – until the threat of disaster suddenly enabled them to work together to save their own political skins…

An interesting finish to the Play, Pie, Pint series – I hope it won’t be too long before the next season!

A Play, a Pie and a Pint: The Persians by Meghan Tyler, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, runs until 5th May for tickets go to:

Review by Mary Woodward



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