Published: 10/10/2014 18:15 - Updated: 10/10/2014 18:33

Play Pieces' Mr Darcy drama

Play Pieces artistic director Lindsay Brown.
Lindsay Brown.

THE challenge of living up to the image of Jane Austen hero Mr Darcy is both obsession and torture for the man at the heart of the latest Play Pieces Saturday lunchtime drama.

Moray’s Chris Lee wrote black comedy Cat Plays Piano and also plays homeworker Jason Darcy who is addicted to Facebook and lives in a constant crisis, envying friends’ lives and wishing he felt as manly as the world expects him to be.

But for Chris and his director Nick Fearne from Dingwall, the struggle has been getting the play cut to less than an hour for the Play Pieces performance which comes with a pie and pint as part of the ticket price at the Phoenix Ale House in Inverness.

Play Pieces director Lindsay Brown said: "We’re really pleased to be doing this play as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival programming.

"Jason Darcy lives in the shadow of that other Mr Darcy – and tries to remake himself."

A homeworker, the character spends a lot of time on his laptop – and relating to the world through social media isn’t helping his mental state.

She said: "Jason is feeling the opposite of empowered and overpowered at just putting himself out there in the unknown.

"We felt this was a perfect fit to be the play we chose to be part of the programming for the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival which promotes positive mental health and well-being."

Chris – known as Kit in his Equity performer’s guise – explained where the idea for the play had come from.

"I just sat down one day in a bad mood at another idea I’d originally chosen to write the play about – I ranted for a couple of paragraphs, thought it was quite funny and liked what I’d written.

"I had been looking to write a show for one actor anyway, so after that I began to work the idea out properly."

The theme developed in the play as Chris found out more about the rise of suicide rates among men in Scotland.

"It’s very much a play about broken men, really," said Chris.

"When I started writing it, I began to look at the suicide statistics and the percentage of people commiting suicide is overwhelmingly men – and many really young men in their early 20s. There has been a lot about it in the media in the last 12 months which has been really useful.

"But while the play has dark moments, I think people will be entertained – it’s pretty funny as well ."

When it came to illustrating the play, Cat Plays Piano, Chris had a problem.

"My wife is allergic to cats, but we have a little set of stacking wooden animals and the piano is our one upstairs!"

Limited space is part of the challenge of appearing in a pub venue.

But it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Chris – he hurt his leg hill-walking so can’t move about very freely.

"I can’t jump about anyway, so a small amount of space is not a problem!" he said.

Chris, who is the co-founder of the Wildbird Theatre Company based in Moray, wrote The Greatest Little Country (In The World) which has just finished a run being performed by the Mull Theatre Company.

Directing the play is Nick Fearne, who lives in Dingwall, formerly worked in Ross-shire, was part of Moray Council’s arts team for 12 years and will soon start work with the Cromarty Film Festival.

He said: "Chris and myself have worked together a lot before and can be straight with each other. We’ve had to do a lot of cutting with Cat Plays Piano – that is always difficult for the writer."

"But we haven’t hit each other yet – the leg injury is nothing to do with me," Nick joked.

"The bars we are performing in aren’t the standard shape of a theatre, that’s the whole point – it’s pub theatre! But this play is a man behind his computer in his room, so it’s appropriate for the actual situation."

Saturday’s show is at the Phoenix Ale House, Inverness.

Doors open at 12.30pm with the performance starting at 1pm.

Tickets are £10 and include a free drink and lunch. The audience can now enjoy a pint thanks to the Loch Ness Brewery in Inverness, as well as a pie or vegetarian alternative.

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