WHAT do ice cream vans mean to you? If you grew up in the west of Scotland in the 1980s, you know that this is a loaded question.

For me, growing up in North Lanarkshire, the carefree jingles of “the van” meant a joke about the Popemobile being mistaken for a vehicle purveying ice cream. They also meant the desperate rush to get to the van before the family who routinely took a stolen supermarket trolley to carry home their gargantuan purchases of confectionery, crisps and fizzy drinks.

However, for many people living in the East End of Glasgow in the 1980s, the cheerful tinkling of the van conjured up fears of the, sometimes fatal, “ice cream wars”. In these outbreaks of urban violence, rival criminal gangs used the innocent ice cream cone as cover for the selling of illegal drugs and stolen goods.

Strathclyde Police were widely considered to be so hapless in the face of this van-based crime wave that they earned the unwanted moniker of the “serious chimes squad”.

Sean and Daro Flake It ‘Til They Make It (Laurie Motherwell’s new two-hander for the Traverse Theatre) draws strongly on the full gamut of this west of Scotland folklore. The titular duo rekindle their friendship at Sean’s Mum’s funeral.

It’s not long until, in a desperate effort to make some cash as self-employed businessmen, the pair have purchased a secondhand ice cream van and reinvented themselves as The Whippy Bros. Special recognition has to be given to designer Karen Tennent who has created a fabulous, theatre-friendly van that bears an uncanny resemblance to the type of vehicles that gained infamy for their role in the ice cream wars.

The National: Sean and Daro Flake It 'Til They Make It at the Traverse.

Spoiler alert – whatever their travails (including an expensively mistaken trip through to Edinburgh to try to sell ice cream to rugby fans at Murrayfield) – Sean and Daro do not resort to selling drugs. Suffice it to say, however, their story makes more than enough reference to the criminality of the 1980s to justify Tennent’s clever design choice.

Motherwell’s play is, at one level, a bittersweet drama about friendship between young, working-class, Scottish men. In that sense, it might be bracketed with Eilidh Loan’s hit play Moorcroft.

Like Loan’s piece, Sean and Daro (to give it its inevitably shortened title) overflows with smart, razor-edged comedy (it also shares with Irvine Welsh a certain pleasure in the more nauseating details of Scottish city life). The scene in which Sean imparts the painful story of a late night attempt to sell ice cream to Glasgow clubbers is as believable as it is vivid.

Sean Connor and Cameron Fulton are perfectly cast as Sean and Daro, respectively. The actors absolutely inhabit their characters, achieving the combination of scabrous humour, pathos, energy and sheer, unadulterated cheek that the script requires.

Director Robert Softley Gale – who wrote and directed the hilarious musical My Left/Right Foot – reaffirms his talent for creating comic productions that are crafted with tremendous pace and balance.

Ends tonight