Interview with David McLennan: A Play, a Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor

Something of a secret success story, Oran Mor has pioneered lunchtime drama. The Skinny gets woozily cultured in the West End

Feature by Debbie Martin | 25 Jun 2008

I’m not making a very good impression on the afternoon theatre regulars at Oran Mor. As I shuffle along the tightly packed rows of tables, I manage to jostle three pints of beer and almost drop my vegetarian pie down the neck of a bemused-looking German man. There’s a Hogwarts-like feel to the dim gothic gloom, and I’m half-expecting Dumbledore to appear any minute. Suddenly a moustached gentleman in a crumpled linen suit bounds towards the stage. He looks like a cross between Omar Sharif and a jetlagged ‘Man from Del Monte’. He is in fact David McLennan, the producer, brains and svengali behind the popular 'A Play, a Pie and a Pint' series at Oran Mor.

He is here to introduce two one-act plays by contemporary Spanish playwrights – Zarraberri by Maite Perez Larumbe, and Limbo, the latest work from award-winning playwright Victor Iriarte, both translated by writer Chris Dolan.

A three-character scenario with a touch of the farcical, Zarraberri features a transparent plastic cone that takes on a myriad of meanings and associations throughout the course of the action. The characters are a little finely sketched, but then again this is one-act comedy, and the play satirises urban snobbery, contemporary architecture and the heritage industry with aplomb.

It’s followed by Limbo, whose central character arrives in the afterlife to find that the pearly gates have been replaced by Excel spreadsheets. The implications are clear – at the centre of organised religion beats the steely heart of bureaucracy. Although the play’s raucous finale is entertaining, it would have been interesting to see the premise stretched to a finer point of tension. However, both works are tightly directed by Rosie Kellagher and receive an enthusiastic response from the audience. Afterwards I locate David from behind a throng of handshakes to discuss the inspiration behind his programming.

"Every play is a previously unperformed work, and we like to feature both new talent and established writers," he explains. "We’ve done history, musicals, farce, political drama – you name it. There’s a play for everyone at Oran Mor."

The crowds are testament to this. Launched since 2004 and now in its eighth season, thousands of people have enjoyed over 100 afternoon productions at Oran Mor. Modestly, David credits the programme’s success to the uniqueness of the venue.

"This really is a phenomenal place," he enthuses. "Your typical pub doesn’t have art, your typical arts centre lacks a lively pub atmosphere. The Oran Mor straddles both.”

And with the evening musical series ‘A Cocktail, a Concert and a Canape’ also a success, I ask him how long it will be before he launches ‘A Song, a Striptease and a Sangria’?

"Well, you never know," he chuckles, "as long as it alliterates, we’ll consider it!"

Saturday afternoons in Starbucks? Yawn. It really is worth popping down to the Oran Mor instead. Pay £10 and you’ll get an ice-cold beer and a delicious, mouth-watering pie (and you’ll get to watch a rather good play too…)