Theatre reviews: Hot Dog | The Moira Trilogy

In Ellen Ritchie’s powerful play Hotdog, Chloe-Ann Tylor is superb as a young woman whose life has been derailed by sexual violence, writes Joyce McMillan

Hotdog, Oran Mor, Glasgow ****

The Moira Trilogy, Webster’s Theatre, Glasgow ****

The theme of women and their long-suppressed anger has been surging through Scottish theatre this spring. It churned in the bellies of Scottish patriot Wendy Wood and the young 21st woman she encountered in Imogen Stirling’s Starving, at Oran Mor and the Traverse. It rang through the final moments of Caryl Churchill’s magnificent Escaped Alone, at the Tron and Traverse; “a terrible rage, a terrible rage, a terrible rage.” And now, in the latest Play, Pie And Pint drama, we meet Ellen Ritchie’s Hotdog, a young woman whose life has been derailed by an experience of sexual violence that has left her struggling with frightening levels of anger, and self-destructive despair.

Hotdog is a student in Glasgow; and when we first meet her, she is heading off to a rave, dressed as a hotdog. It’s not a fancy dress party, but she clearly needs some kind of barrier between herself and the world; and initially, she is not the most attractive of characters. She speaks, but it’s not clear why she is speaking to us, while a silent Stage Hand quietly moves around organising sound effects and prop changes; and her monologue is full of a terrible floating rage – against her best friend Lucy who tries to be nice to her, against her mother who keeps sending her ready meals, and against everything and everyone who gets in her way.

Hide Ad

It’s therefore not surprising that Hotdog’s party night ends in self-inflicted disaster; but when Chloe-Ann Tylor’s superb Hotdog makes it back to her friendly neighbourhood takeaway, things begin to look up, both emotionally and dramatically. Ross Allan’s Stage Hand morphs into the friendly middle-aged takeaway man; and between these two fine actors, and Becky Hope-Palmer’s finely pitched production, Ellen Ritchie’s powerful play moves towards a conclusion that succeeds both in conjuring up some hope, and in making it clear that irreversible damage has been done, as Hotdog tries to pick herself up, and move on.

And then there is Moira, the inimitable heroine of Alan Bissett’s magnificent Moira Trilogy of monologues starring Moira Bell, queen of the Falkirk schemes. This spring, Bissett is touring a marathon performance of all three plays, in a three-and-a-half hour evening; and together they form an absolute classic of Scottish working-class comedy, distinguished by an absolute refusal of nostalgia, and a passionate and hilarious engagement with the reality of working-class life in the age of online deliveries, internet quizzes, and women doing it for themselves, in every possible sense.

So in the first play, which dates back to 2009, Moira is to be seen – among other adventures – defending her wee dog Pepe against the neighbour’s Rottweiler. In More Moira Monologues (2017), she becomes a grannie, and muses on the 2014 referendum and the Falkirk kelpies. And in Moira In Lockdown (2022) she lives through the Covid crisis in her own inimitable style, seducing the online delivery man, and eventually even going for a walk in the Falkirk woods.

Hotdog PIC: Tommy Ga-Ken WanHotdog PIC: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Hotdog PIC: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Like Hotdog, she speaks throughout in a rich and vivid vernacular Scots; and like Hotdog, she suffers from dangerous outbursts of rage. Like all the best iconic stage characters, she manages to seem both unique, and somehow representative of a culture, or a nation – “You know me, Babs, I really hate violence when it’s no me that’s daein’ it.” And always, her monologues are addressed to her best friend Babs, the one beloved constant in her life; in a bond that suggests that even if Moira is not one for laying her demons to rest, she still knows what love is, and that her rage – while often justified – is far from being the whole story of her life.

Hotdog is at Oran Mor, Glasgow, until 23 March; the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 26-30 March; and the Macrobert, Stirling, 2-5 April. The Moira Trilogy is at Mull Theatre, 30 March; the Macrobert, Stirling, 27 April; and Perth Theatre, 11 May.

Related topics: