Written by Laurie Motherwell
Directed by Robert Softley Gale
There’s just something about ice cream, isn’t there? It captures this isolated point where troubles don’t so much vanish but melt. It’s a world where responsibility is misplaced until you hit the soggy bottom of the cone, and the only issue you’ve got is if your mum has enough for a coveted 99′ with Raspberry sauce or what your pals are doing at the weekend. It’s always an eternal summer, no matter the weather.
But that’s not how life works – no matter how much we want it to. After his mum’s death, the idea of moving on to the rest of his life is just too hazy. Sean’s already dropped out of Uni to care for her and finds himself without a clue of what to do. But their best pal from school Daro, who he’s drifted away from, is there for Sean at this moment of need – and he’s got a belter of an idea. And what Daro may lack in ‘expected’ education, with his series of unskilled bit jobs, he makes up for with gumption and passion. His plan? Get into the ice cream van game.
With a dodgy loan, left-over cones, and knock-off Flakes, the pair take to the streets of Glasgow under their new moniker: The Whippy Bros. And for a while, life is sweet.
It’s a peculiarly accurate analogy for grief, one of the central motifs for Laurie Motherwell’s storytelling, and how it never goes away – it just dissolves away, leaving a stubborn, sometimes saccharine mark that every so often we stumble into once again. An all-out comedic affair, there is no fault with Motherwell’s sense of rather bleak humour – which slices right through even the most miserable of glum days with a patter and pace that causes laughs of all kinds.
And while it isn’t revolutionary in its arc around male bonding and the severe injustices, particularly economic barriers and class culture, there’s a rhythm to Motherwell’s writing which Robert Softly Gale takes full advantage of in directing some of Sean Connor and Cameron Fulton’s lines to the audience. By the end of the story, involving a surreal moment which finds an ice cream van outside a crematorium, Connor sucker punches the audience with a beautifully poignant performance from Sean which magnifies just how raw grief can scar us. Gale still manages to aid Connor in demonstrating a grown man coming to terms with the loss – still possessing the tears of that small boy longing for their mother once more.
The intensity of performance does spark reinforced lights and glimmers to the issues of pre-destined judgements of working-class men across Scotland, that one look at the hoodie, one whiff of an accent, and there’s bound to be a trouble of some kind still permeates all too often. Gale’s direction pushes Fulton into making a vividly powerful reprimanding, one garbed in humour throughout but leaves a very clear and guilty taste in the mouths of those who gripped their wallets tighter or held their breath in the judgement of someone.
After the sweet flavour of summer begins dying down, the harsh realities of winter in the ice business dawn on the lads. With the creeping costs of diesel, pop, sweeties, and licences – the profit margin on that sweet, frosted goodness either has to increase, or they need to find another hook. And Sean doesn’t help themselves with the Whippy Boys gimmick; these small doggy bags full of sherbet certainly give off an ‘edge’ of appeal to a younger party-focused crowd. It’s here that the story takes a turn, matched by the production’s lighting and sound – both of which have been having an enjoyable time thus far, the lighting in the preceding scene where the cash flowed, the glow sticks shook and the Bru poured.
But the illusion of those nostalgic days extends beyond the writing, the Traverse transforming the performance space into a pavilion green, Karen Tennant’s set brings a dozen or so of the luckiest audience members onto the stage with chairs in the direct sight of the scale-size Whippy Boys Ice-Cream truck. Complete with bells, whistles, and a (legally obligated) 12-second jingle.
Motherwell’s van full of treats possesses a familiar ring in narrative elements, and while too much of the sweet stuff can be a bit nauseating, it benefits tremendously from two excellent lead performances which shine with intensity and integrity. The first in-house production to open the Traverses’ 60th anniversary year, Sean and Daro Flake it ‘til They Make It possesses all the flavourful elements the venue shares: quality performances, with fine ingredients, all blended to make something tasty, authentic, and just a wee bit cheeky.
Two Excellent Lead Performances
Sean and Daro Flake It ‘Til They Make It runs at The Traverse Theatre until April 23rd. Tuesday – Saturday, 19.30pm with matinees on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 14.30pm and 14.00pm on Sunday.
Running time – One hour and fifteen minutes without interval. Suitable for ages 14+
Tickets begin from £18.00 (Con. available) and may be obtained here.