The Shunt Vaults are a dark and sprawling space beneath London Bridge station. They’ve played host to the work of the Shunt Collective (Tropicana, Amata Saltone) and are also the site of a quirkily ramshackle members’ bar and now they’re also the home of Paines Plough’s new initiative: A Play, A Pie and A Pint.
This delightfully Ronseal-esque scheme is exactly what it sounds like. 10 buys you a ticket to a short play as well as a pie and a drink to consume during the performance. The plays start at 6pm and none run longer than an hour (in part because the events are derived from a scheme by Scottish company Oran Mor designed to fit into the lunch hour). This leaves the audience with plenty of post-play time to linger in the candle-lit Shunt Vaults bar.
The plays themselves are staged away from the main vaults in an intimate upstairs space and, having picked up their food, the audience are given time to start tucking in before the drama kicks off. The first up in a series of four works to be staged during this month long run is David Greig’s Being Norwegian.
It’s a sweet, poignant piece. Lisa and Sean meet in a pub and go back to his flat. Sean is nervous, he’s not accustomed to having women back to his place and it shows. Most of his possessions are in boxes, yet to be unpacked after his move, and he’s forced to serve her wine out of a mug. Lisa is far more forward. She’s from Norway, you see, and people are more relaxed about such things there. Lisa is quite passionate about her home country and claims to sense something appealing Norwegian about his solitary, simple lifestyle.
Meg Fraser and Stewart Porter perform these scenes with a beautifully judged sense of awkwardness. The attraction between them is clear but there is also fear and other, darker things obvious below the surface. Greig’s writing is packed with humour but also with a strong undercurrent of sadness, of the ease in which one can get lost in a big, threatening city. It’s a slight and concise piece of work, but it fits the format perfectly.
As I said this is the first of four similarly compact productions by Che Walker, Sean Buckley and Rona Munro respectively. It’s an appealing, accessible scheme that allows you to bring some theatre in to your evening without the attendant fuss (and cost) of a night in the West End.