Photo credit: Douglas Jones

Photo credit: Douglas Jones

Photo credit: Douglas Jones

Photo credit: Douglas Jones

Photo credit: Douglas Jones


Barony bar, Edinburgh

Barflies looks at the profound liberation of alcohol, its opening up of corners of sexuality and mental activity, as well as its most undesirable effects.

A huge sell-out and award winning success during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2009, in 2012 Scottish site-specialists Grid Iron took the show on the road, to bars all over Scotland and ending the tour with their first ever appearance in Wales, to the famous Vulcan bar in Cardiff.

Drawn from the short-stories and poems of cult American writer Charles Bukowski, Barflies is a rumbustious encounter with his alter-ego Henry Chinaski and a bevvy of the women who shaped his life and work. A visceral look at the pains and glories of drunkenness and all the humour, horror, hope and devastation it can bring.

Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

Keith Fleming and Gail Watson, as Henry and all his women, give this tale of booze and sex such hell that it’s difficult to argue with the sheer life-force of the show, which floats along on a boozy tide of delicious music from barman/pianist David Paul Jones, in a gleaming Barony which has never looked more beautiful, or more mythical.

Robert Dawson Scott, The Times

Grid Iron, surely now one of the most sophisticated site specific theatre makers in Europe, never mind Scotland… I was gripped by the characters from start to finish, awed by the extremity of it all and perhaps just a little seduced by Bukowski’s completely unapologetic embracing of his dissolution… a typically jaw-dropping moment when Henry offers his liver to a literary lady who praises his writing and she gives him her heart in return. The bloody offal is fairly whizzing up and down the bar. Keith Fleming as Henry reprises the boozy, cocky persona he developed so brilliantly for Dundee Rep’s Peer Gynt last year, only to the power of ten. But Gail Watson as all five women eclipses even him, a scintillating acting tour de force. This is bravura theatre-making in every detail.

Duska Radosavljevic, The Stage

a kind of artistry uniquely characteristic of this particular company. Their greatest feat is a glorious theatricalisation of their chosen material – both textual and textural. Keith Fleming is the lazy, constantly dishevelled, sharp-tongued bohemian Henry, complemented beautifully by the fiery Gail Watson, who unfurls a whole range of moving and memorable portraits of the unfortunate women associated with him. Grid Iron have yet again pulled off a marvelous success – easily one of the best shows this year and quite possibly a winner within the company’s own repertoire. And they have shown that just like the subject of their fitting tribute, they mature extraordinarily well as they line up effortless, unpretentious, penetrating modern classics one after another.

Matt Truman, Carousel of Fantasies

The skill of Ben Harrison’s production is to damn even as it glorifies. Its inhabitants seem at once the romanticised bums of American lore and the rancid arseholes of Scottish life…Harrison coaxes fine performances from his cast…Keith Fleming cements his position as Scotland’s premier portrayer of alcoholics…Gail Watson seems a one-woman harem of hazy alcoholics, each utterly distinguishable, keenly observed and superbly executed. Visceral, intelligent and always engaging.

Jay Hobday, Broadway Baby

Keith Fleming plays ‘Henry’, a drunken writer, scarily reminiscent of Bukowski himself. He is overwhelmingly strong in his performance, spitting his story out and drawing you completely in. Gail Watson assists in bringing his narrative to life, hypnotically taking on five different roles, making each astonishingly separate from the others with a talent that is nothing short of incredible. Both monumental actors are pushed along in their tale by the subtle and complementary use of music, played on the pub’s old piano by the super-talented David Paul Jones …It’s dirty, sexy, painful, violent…The performers treat the bar like a playground, jumping all over it like monkeys, like children at the best party ever. They utilise every inch of the space, every door, every hook, leaving you flabbergasted by the sheer levels of what you’re watching. They move seamlessly from a drunken, Dionysus-like dance (front row, bring your umbrellas) to poignantly still scenes of loss or reconciliation. All the while, you’re senses are bombarded by the amalgamation of what you are seeing with some of the most beautiful lighting effects I’ve ever witnessed and Jones’ soaring, formidable score. This is utterly believable, thought provoking theatre. The physicality, acting talent and musical prowess seen in this show is exceptional.