Grid Iron, Barflies

Review in Issue 21-4 | Winter 2009

Scrawled in chalk on the pub blackboard: ‘If I had to choose between drinking and fucking I think I would have to give up fucking.’ Welcome to the world of Charles Bukowski – or is it the world of his alter-ego Henry Chinaski? It’s hard to tell. Set in a real working bar, Barflies takes beat poet Bukowski’s work and life as its subject, with Grid Iron’s starting point a selection of Bukowski’s short stories, weaved together to form a linear narrative. (Mostly ‘realist’ in tone, but for one magic realist story of a man who shrinks until he is just six inches tall, then gets used as a dildo.) To be fair, Grid Iron make no biographical claims, and yet this imposed narrative somehow bolsters up the common confusion between Bukowski’s works of fiction and the facts of his life.

But putting that aside, and moving on to what Grid Iron actually do with their chosen material – the mahogany-and-mirrors environment of the Barony Bar is a great space, and Grid Iron use it to brilliant effect, the audience seated at tables with Whisky Sours; the blackboards embellished with Bukowski bon mots; a blue neon sign bearing the legend Sloefuck flickering above the action. There’s charged performances from the cast of three – poet-drunkard ‘Henry’, an ‘everywoman’ female character who is humped and bumped on bar and table and floor, and (my favourite) the witness to our poet’s excesses and despairs, Silent Dave the barman, who doubles as singer/musician, as when he accompanies himself on the Old Joanna for a rendition of Lilac Wine.

I don’t feel that this is Grid Iron at their best – but nevertheless, a good piece of theatre, presented with the professionalism and panache we would expect from Edinburgh’s finest.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival

Traverse at The Barony Bar

Date Seen
  1. Aug 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-4
p. 29