Pushin' Thirty @ Òran Mór, Glasgow

Elfie Picket Theatre's new two-hander dives deep into growing up and looking forward

Review by Sam Gonçalves | 09 Apr 2024
  • Pushin Thirty

After a certain age, the prospect of hearing 29-year-olds talk about the anxiety of turning 30 feels like a summon to represent your country in the eye-rolling Olympics. But Pushin’ Thirty, a play written by Elfie Picket Theatre duo Calum Kelly and Taylor Dyson, unequivocally broaches the subject with surprising depth. The story sees old friends and bandmates (Dyson and Sam James Smith) who, after an uneasy reunion before the dreaded birthday, reflect on how things haven’t turned out as they hoped. 

The two performers weave quickly between flashbacks, musical numbers and cutaways to a range of characters. The fluid narrative feels seamless through the direction of Beth Morton and the chemistry of the actors. But Pushin' Thirty's biggest achievement is not getting bogged down in pat references and memes, instead focusing on the inner life of characters caught between the tension of what has been and what could be. 

Elfie Picket have a way of turning out memorable and unlikely productions, and this one feels no different. It surprises the viewer at every turn, while never faltering from its unique mixture of humour and thoughtful character studies. The play glides intimately through Dundee, another staple of the group’s productions, fondly chronicling the city’s beauty and weirdness. One of the highlights of the performance comes as a description of the Wellgate Centre, a fascinating building also haunted by its relationship to the past. Throughout, Dyson offers a Herculean performance, carrying the weight of several characters as well as the emotional centre of the story – making it all seem effortless. 

Pushin’ Thirty is not so much about the thoroughly trodden ground of quarter-life crisis as it is about courage and regret. It exposes how obsessing about what’s coming often means we spend our lives looking back.

Pushin' Thirty, Òran Mór, Glasgow, part of A Play, a Pie and a Pint, run ended