The Prognostications of Mikey Noyce, Oran Mor, Glasgow

A PLAY, a Pie and a Pint (PPP) – the acclaimed lunchtime theatre at the Oran Mor venue in the West End of Glasgow – has been on something of a roll of late. Three weeks back, Joe McCann’s Alföld (a sinisterly absurdist piece about racism in Orban’s Hungary) impressed mightily.

That was followed by Taqi Nazeer’s Jinnistan, a compelling Muslim ghost story for Halloween. The latest play – Frances Poet’s abundantly titled The Prognostications of Mikey Noyce – is not without its pleasures. However, it fails to reach the high standards of recent offerings at PPP.

Poet’s piece (which transfers to the Lemon Tree venue in Aberdeen next week) is a bleak comedy set in the Glasgow flat of the titular twentysomething IT worker (Angus Miller). Mikey – as the many newspaper pages that line his living room walls testify – is in some mental stress.

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He is joined in his neglected home by his long-term, but recently estranged, friend Holly (Naomi Stirrat), who he has lured over on the false pretext of Mikey desperately needing the return of a CD. In fact, Mikey needs Holly because Cassie, an acquaintance of hers from school days (played by Mercy Ojelade), is now a Green Party MSP.

In Mikey’s fevered imagination, Cassie – who is due to attend a Westminster parliamentary committee the next day – is the very person to convey to the UK Government the need for urgent action to avert the imminent disaster that he has foreseen.

For he, Mikey Noyce – for whom lunch is a bowl of breakfast cereal, eaten while sitting on the sofa in a hoody and trackie bottoms – is a 21st-century seer: after all, doesn’t he (almost) share a name with that other great soothsayer “Noyce-stradamus”?

However – if he is to get the message about the forthcoming omni-chaos to Rishi Sunak – Mikey must first convince Holly that he is a prophetic visionary, rather than another mental health casualty of the Covid pandemic.

Understandably sceptical, Holly peruses Mikey’s drawings, which depict scenes of death and destruction (as well as, in considerable volume, childishly drawn women’s breasts).

There is a glaring improbability in Holly ultimately being willing to give serious consideration to Mikey’s prophecies. A professional politician’s willingness to do the same stretches credulity to breaking point.

Consequently, the plot has more holes than a Kwasi Kwarteng “mini-budget”. This would be less of a problem if the comedy wasn’t so sporadic and uneven.

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The humour – which plays through, not only Mikey’s delusions, but also the romantic dimension to his friendship with Holly – is rarely laugh-out-loud. Unlike Blackadder or the late Robbie Coltrane’s satires on the Orange Order, Poet’s comedy is simply never sharp or funny enough to justify its tackling of such serious subjects as climate chaos and the rise of the far-right.

In the end, the playwright resorts to earnest polemic and an obvious conclusion. Director Shilpa T-Hyland’s production is nicely acted and watchable, but it lags behind the lunchtime theatre’s recent high standards.

At the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, November 15-19: