Oran Mor, Glasgow
Spring hasn't quite sprung yet, but a fresh season of A Play, A Pie And A Pint - with no fewer than 19 new lunchtime productions between now and June - is a timely reminder that there's life, and dramas, after panto time. First up is a two-hander by Stewart Thomson, with the potentially chilling title Frank's Dead. Any nod in the direction of the morbid is, however, intended to amuse.
So - who is Frank? He's a budgie, folks: the total focus of Neil's lonely, bachelor existence before becoming a late budgie on Neil's birthday - six frustrating weeks before he would have clocked up the world record for budgie longevity. Kev, Neil's visiting older brother, is no comfort in this time of disappointment. As the story-line twists in search of black humour, Kev's revelations push the dialogue towards a bitter-tinged expose of battened-down sibling frictions.
While Frank, in his tupperware coffin, sits reproachfully on the table, the brothers exhume the corpse of their childhood along with memories of their long-dead dad. From playing ping-pong with nicely-turned punchlines - Iain Robertson (Neil) and Steven McNicoll (Kev) are both adept at the comedy point-scoring - the script lurches into confessional soul-searching awash with cliche, predictability and sentimental closure. It feels like a bit of a cop-out, even though Robertson keeps Neil balanced on a teeter-board between being the whingeingly ineffectual fall guy and Frank's dogmatically conscientious guardian. McNicoll, meanwhile, finds some depths to Kev beyond his commonplace identity as a re-iterating string of swear words. Thomson's back-ground is in screen-writing, and at times this feels like a pilot for a Neil'n'Kev sit-com - would we be glad? Frankly, not a lot.