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  • Isabella Thompson

Review - Pinot Princess

Omnibus Theatre

Playing until 14th April



Review {AD-PR Invite}

The Pinot Princess follows a struggling actor, Mary (Pamela Flanagan), trying to liberate herself and break through gender stereotype by playing a punk Virgin Mary (aka. ‘Pinot’) on stage. Catholic guilt and toxic mother in tow, plus a boyfriend (Neal Craig) doubling as her supporting cast leaves Pinot struggling to get a grip on her identity. The result is a passionate performance that slightly misses the mark of what could have been a hidden gem. 


 

Lorraine Mullaney’s storyline is smart, witty and has the potential to hit that sweet-spot of marrying humour with depth. The meta-theatrical element to the play is an engaging and dynamic device that is often a hit with audiences. There are a few writing flaws that hinder the performance from the offset—remarks about social media ‘trending’ and snarky critiques of the digital Gen-Z space fall a little flat. As the story unravels and the focus turns to ‘Pinot’s’ mental state, what had been a structured and relatively well-actioned plot starts to drift. Catholic guilt clichés take hold and moments of heightened drama are introduced that feel a little far-fetched. This is a shame, as the premise has ample opportunity for plot development that would maintain the audience’s interest. A key example of this is the intriguing, over-involved boyfriend character who not-so-subtly tries to manage ‘Pinot’. Plot-wise, Mullaney could have played more with his competitive, ambitious nature and attempts to outgrow his partner. This could have provided a more dynamic basis for plot development.

 


The show opens with Mary performing as ‘Pinot’, enacting a mock communion dressed as the Virgin Mary with wine as her central object. In theory, this works; however, it is not clear from the performance that this is a play-within-a-play. I feel that the nature of ‘Pinot’s’ performance would benefit from some further direction and development. Some questions to consider could be whether she is good at her act or if it is just a sad attempt at gaining notoriety. As it stands, this is unclear. With such a bold opening, it would be lovely for the performance to have a bit more welly at the beginning of the show, or else it risks the audience feeling unconfident in the rest of the play. What would work well is if the satire of the opening was pushed further, mocking the notion of an actor failing in their attempt to be punk and politically daring. In saying this, it is clear that Flanagan has a lot of passion for their character, which results in an energised performance.

 

Phyllida Hickish’s set design is shrewdly conceived and well-executed considering the limitations of the space. The use of traverse staging is perfect for the show, with one side acting as the ‘stage’ and the other as the dressing room. This allows for the play to swiftly hop between ‘performance’ and ‘reality’ with clarity whilst avoiding clunky scene changes. In addition, Lizzie Mounter’s sound design provides realistic ambience that works seamlessly with the action on stage. Deirdre Daly must also be commended for their costuming. I was glad to see they avoided the use of a cheap, costume-shop Virgin Mary outfit, instead opting for more subtle linens. Though the character is punk, this works much better and heightens the production value.

 

Overall, The Pinot Princess is a play with potential that sadly falls short of expectations. That is not to say it is a failure: it would take some work but it could have a second life provided that re-writes and dramaturgical changes were made.

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