The Prognostications Of Mikey Noyce, Oran Mor, Glasgow ****
Miss Lindsay’s Secret, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh ***
The scene is a battered flat in Glasgow; and as the play starts, our hero Mikey Noyce is not in a good place. Beset by premonitions that come to him in dreams, Mikey has hardly been out of the house since the start of the first pandemic lockdown. His walls are covered in rough sketches of the visions he sees; and now, his images of the future are becoming so grim that he feels compelled to call on his old flatmate Holly, whom he hasn’t seen for two troubled years.
His plan is to try to persuade Holly to talk to a Green MSP whom she once knew at school, and to try to get her to exert some influence on the UK government, which he thinks will face a shocking terrorist incident within weeks if action is not taken; but Holly is sceptical, and so begins a brisk and sometimes hilarious round of banter between two people who clearly care for one another, but have been driven apart by the isolation of pandemic times, and the fears they brought with them.
Only when the MSP, Cassie, finally appears does the conversation take a more serious turn, with Mikey and Holly forced to face the truth that on a planet stricken by climate change, the worst has already happened for tens of millions of people; and like everything else in Frances Poet's smart and intensely topical Play, Pie And Pint drama, this transition is deftly and persuasively handled, in Shilpa T Hyland’s brisk production, by a fine cast featuring Angus Miller, Naomi Stirrat and Mercy Ojelade. The message seems to be that we can still reach for a little personal happiness and joy, on the brink of planetary collapse; and we’re left hoping that hapless Angus and sensible Holly will make it to that point, before any more disasters strike.
A will-they-won’t-they love story is also the theme of Maria MacDonnell’s gentle and beautiful show Miss Lindsay’s Secret, now completing an autumn tour of the UK. Based on an old collection of letters found at the Glenesk Folk Museum in Angus, the show tells the story of Alexander Middleton, who left the glen in 1902 to seek his fortune in Alaska’s great Klondike gold rush, and his love, a seamstress called Minnie, whom he left behind there; and there’s also a slightly distracting meta-narrative in which a character called The Curator wonders whether it’s quite ethical to make a public show of Alex’s loving letters, which Minnie had clearly shared with no-one, during her increasingly respectable lifetime.
There’s never any doubt, though, that the story will be told, over a meditative 75 minutes; and Alex’s letters conjure up a memorable picture of the harshness of life in Alaska 120 years ago, and the growing desperation of men who – like him – gave their lives to an often futile search for gold. Some of the strongest writing comes when MacDonnell imagines Minnie’s increasing despair at Alex’s ever more hopeless gold rush addiction, as the years roll by; and although what emerges is a very ordinary story of missed chances and limited lives, the whole tale is beautifully presented by MacDonnell herself as The Curator, Alan Finlayson as Alex, and the musician Georgina MacDonnell Finlayson, whose wise and yearning fiddle music makes a perfect accompaniment to a tale of young love never fulfilled, in a time when other priorities seemed so much more important.
The Prognostications of Mikey Noyce is at Oran Mor, Glasgow, until 12 November, and the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 15-19 November. Miss Lindsay’s Secret is at the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 10 November, Birnam Arts Centre 11 November, and the Heart Of Hawick, 25 November.