Barflies ****1/2

Barflies is a celebration of people who have the braveness to let go of their inhibitions through drinking.

I want you to read that first sentence again and think, because the first emotion that popped in your head upon reading that is most probably going to be your reaction to the production.

Set in the Barony Bar, Barflies takes four stories by famed alcoholic writer Charles Bukowski and sets them in a Scottish pub.  The four stories differ in style, crossing dramatic, comedic and absurd territories.  Keith Fleming plays Henry, a writer who mostly lives out of bars.  Henry recounts numerous women in his life, all played by Gail Watson.  The production is also underscored by bartender Silent Dave, played by David Paul Jones, who plays piano, serves drinks and sings a final song that ends the performance on a note of poignancy.

No matter what your feelings are towards the story, characters or themes, there is no denying the absolute skill that has gone into making the production.  Grid Iron is one of the most creative companies working in Scottish theatre, and their work here is fully accomplished.  It is brilliantly produced, directed and performed.

But we have to come back to the opening sentence.  Though I personally wouldn’t want to hang out with any of these people, they are portrayed in a sympathetic light, and heavy drinking certainly looks like a lot of fun here.  While I personally don’t have a problem with that, many do, and that has certainly been reflected in many of the less-than-stellar reviews out there.  Of course, this production also has many fans, and I count myself among them.  It is a lot of fun and is well executed, though perhaps setting it in an American bar would serve the storylines and speech patterns much better than its Scottish relocation, which seems a bit forced upon at times.

Still, Barflies is an excellent site-specific production that does exactly what it has set out to do: tell a big entertaining pub yarn in a recognisable setting.

Playing at The Barony Bar from 15.00 until August 30.


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