Pie shop story offers many quirky moments

Mr Red Light is the author of his own inept plot.

''I don't have a life,'' he says. He never gets the pie he wants, and his name is either hastily invented or stolen. Having taken three people hostage in a pie shop, he's woefully short of strategy or even motive. What he does have, though, is a gun.

The shop itself is much like any other brightly-lit fast-food outlet, but it can on occasion accommodate other time and space dimensions. Set design by Andrew Foster cleverly gives the audience the impression of watching the action through the shop's glass exterior wall.

There is much to love: the play's ever-present quirky humour, the reactions and interactions of strangers whose quick snack turns out to be more than they bargained for, sudden changes of pace and tone, poignant moments quickly undercut by comedy and sometimes violence. Among my favourite sequences were a delightful vignette in which Mr Red Light takes on the role of unctuous waiter, pouring wine for diners; and another in which the gun is tossed from character to character, rugby-style.

There are no moments of genuine terror or even serious consternation. The play moves from one ingenious idea to another, but sometimes sags, and would benefit from stronger momentum and a more effective ending.

Simon Ferry is highly believable in the title role, and Jennifer Ludlam, Richard Te Are and Jess Sayer sensitively uncover the hostages' hopes and insecurities. Carl Bland, the play's author, plays various smaller parts including the voice of Trevor, the stodgy police negotiator.

Overall, an enjoyable, constantly surprising theatre experience with plenty of charming moments. The Regent's stalls were about half full, and audience reaction positive. The one-night season was brought to Dunedin by Nightsong and Tour Makers.

-By Barbara Frame

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