Observations: A Play, a Pie and a Pint is a Celtic legend

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The Independent Culture

After six years, 12 seasons and nearly 200 individual productions, the lunchtime theatre series A Play, a Pie and a Pint is still going strong in Glasgow. Did its artistic director David MacLennan expect this when he founded it back in 2004? "Good God, no! But it's proven to be exceptionally popular with the audience and with the profession."

It is, in other words, a cult success on the Scottish theatre scene, so much so that its weekly-changing productions now warrant a bi-annual five-week transfer to Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre. This run is still ongoing, with some of the finest talent from Scotland and further afield contributing. Already, we've seen Simon Stephens's airport-set two-hander Heaven and the well-observed domestic drama of Ella Hickson's Soup.

MacLennan was originally approached by Colin Beattie, owner of the then newly opened church conversion Oran Mor in Glasgow's West End, to come up with a theatrical use for the building. Inspired by the likes of Edinburgh's the Pool in the early Seventies, he decided to try a lunchtime programme, although arguably the novelty of the enterprise is only part of the story. MacLennan's sizeable contacts list and networking abilities also play a role.

"The aim is to provide a platform for the very best writing of all types," he says, "so we've produced the first plays from novelists like Louise Welsh, Denise Mina and Alan Bissett, and from debut writers like DC Jackson and Kieran Lynn, who went on to residencies at the Royal Court and Hampstead Theatre, respectively." It's a semi-workshopping environment that writers should be unafraid to take risks in, says MacLennan. The play he's currently directing, Gregory Burke's sci-fi comedy Battery Farm, is apparently intended for expansion by the writer if this version works.

For such a small-scale venture, the reputation for quality and diversity the series has built up is entirely deserved. And if the odd play doesn't strike the right note, then we very much recommend the pies, at least.

To 3 April, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh; to 22 May, Oran Mor, Glasgow (Playpiepint. com)

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