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Barflies

The Barony Bar, Edinburgh
4 stars
Site-specific maestros Grid Iron scored a major hit when they knitted 
together three booze and sex soaked short stories by Charles Bukowski 
in the company's local in 2009. Ben Harrison's equally  pie-eyed 
revival returns to the show's original venue before embarking on a 
nationwide pub crawl of one-night stands. With Keith Fleming returning 
as narrator and Bukowski's alter-ego Henry Chinaski and composer David 
Paul Jones bashing out some woozy piano numbers in a customised Barony, 
this remains a vivid and a sad-eyed evocation of life lived through the 
bottom of a glass that's frequently smashed, spilt or both.

While Fleming replays his stumblebum routine from last time round with 
aplomb, as with all of the Bukowski canon, it's the women who matter 
most. Stepping into Gail Watson's tottery heels, Charlene Boyd adds a 
more youthful frisson to proceedings, be it as self-destructive 
loose-cannon Cass, the snarlingly ferocious Vicki, or Vivienne, the 
posh girl epitome of literary groupiedom who gets a piece of one of the 
old myth-maker's more magical-realist, if gynaecologically-inclined 
yarns.

Meat is everywhere in Harrison's production, be it the ripped-out liver 
Henry lays down before his true love, the discarded bag of chickens 
 from his off-the-rails tryst with Margy and her fox fur, or the flesh 
on flesh as Hank and Cass hold onto each other with increasing 
desperation for life itself. Harrison's Scots-accented adaptation works 
better with the pair's sparring than in the monologues, when the 
original street-smart American rhythms can't help but take over. If 
there are moments bordering on knockabout parody, they veer just the 
right side of Bukowskian largesse in a rip-roaring study of wisdom 
through excess.

The Herald, February 10th 2012

ends

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