A Walk In The Park

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

Midnight. A solitary man is trying to get his dispirited thoughts written down. He’s in the grip of a long, dark winter of the soul and though he’ll come away with some pithy, witty comments – often about the booze in his life – there’s a lingering melancholy wrapped around him, and the memories he revisits. When this piece was first done at Oran Mor – in May 2005 – Laurie Ventry took on the role. Now writer Dave Anderson has updated the script and is himself playing Verse to the many characters given voice by the Chorus (Helen McAlpine). Together they lead us through the hinterlands of loss and grief, re-imagined as a familiar local park where a succession of savvy critters chat to Verse, and us.

McAlpine is in her element here, switching costumes and assuming different accents as Verse combats loneliness with various imaginary encounters. An urban Fox arrives among us with a gallus swagger, a Chic Murray bunnet topping off his orange outfit – and some hard facts about why he and his ilk have abandoned country for town. A furry Grey Squirrel – with an American accent, natch! - tries scrounging nuts from Anderson. It’s no go. He offers some nippy back-chat instead.

It’s when the Little Girl appears – with McAlpine deftly catching the child’s larky brightness, her absorbed engagement with the park, the river – that we grasp the source of Verse’s profound heartache. Anderson understands these feelings, brings dignity to them, but his voice, his facial expression, his body language, are tinged with bone marrow hurting. He’s about to fling the bottle with his unhappy musings into the river – maybe even join it – when McAlpine’s wee Flower, blossoming among hard stones, declares it’s time winter ended.

The well-pitched degrees of informality in both performances, and in Davey Anderson’s direction, draw you genuinely close. Tragedy and comedy inter-connect tellingly – you laugh... but tears, like the Flower’s hopeful Spring, are never far away.