Oran Mor, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

IF Isabel Wright’s new one-man play does not already have a slot booked for this summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe – for which this week’s lunchtime slot in A Play, A Pie and a Pint is an early run – then it will surely be part of the 2021 programme.

A writer with shows for Boilerhouse, Frantic Assembly, 7:84 and the Traverse under her belt, her director here is Paul Brotherston whose smash hit Pride and Prejudice (sort of) is still out on the road. Such experienced hands have produced a slickly designed vehicle for Edinburgh’s Jack Tarlton, instantly recognisable from his TV work, even if his stage work has mostly been south of the border.

This title role takes him back home, like Daniel himself, who is on a visit to his elderly father, and escaping his responsibilities in that big London. We first meet him with his trousers round his ankles on the floor of a toilet on the train north, and his narration will also take us to the top of Arthur’s Seat as well as to various other locations in both capital cities. Besides father, and his missing dog, he also introduces us to his “manic pixie dream girl”, Katie Watkins, whom he knows is the love of his life, but – like all Scots men – is unable to find the words to tell her that. The family tragedy that has left him tongue-tied takes a while to reveal itself.

An aspiring filmmaker, Daniel’s “scrag ends of images” are projected at the back of the stage, alongside the chapter headings for his monologue, while the sound design adds its own punctuation, kicking off with The Fall’s Totally Wired. Wright’s text is filled with clever and zeitgeisty lines – “There are too many eyes in this room”; “Whatever love is, I’m in it” – but occasionally over-explains itself for a Scottish audience, confirming that a tourist-inclusive public is part of the plan, as does the name checking of Trainspotting, and some heroic Irn Bru consumption. The fact that the show is altogether more moving than its commercial ambition suggests is all down to Tarlton’s compelling performance,