Three men walk into a pub, order stout and sit down to tell – correction! – to retell the stories that happened years ago. This is both the outline for The Best Pints and a remarkably accurate view of my own life.
Gerry (Warren Rusher), Steve (Matthew Blaney) and David (Tarik Badwan) meet up in their hometown local in Northern Ireland. They have been coming here together for a while; it’s a normal, run-of-the-mill evening for them. They run through the greatest hits, they reminisce about love and family and it’s all the same old, same old.
Having had enough of this for once (and enough of Steve’s raconteuring), Gerry demands that they tell of their best pints. Now, we know what you are thinking: everyone has a selection of their best pints, obviously. The best pint in Dublin, the best pint in Cork, the best pint in Belfast, the best … oh you get the picture. However, Gerry wants the best pint with an emotional core – the time that it actually meant something, something memorable. A trickier question.
The set is simple; three chairs and a stool with three pint glasses– Guinness glasses, toucans and all. We have the image of three friends crowded together around a small table in a pub, a safe and comfortable space for them. They can reach out and touch; a punch on the arm for a silly comment, a pat on the shoulders for encouragement and solidarity. Each takes their turn to tell a story that means something a bit more to them. Rusher ably shows the pride and connection Ger feels with his son, Badwan takes centre stage with a short moving monologue showing the grief and loss after the death of David’s wife. Steve takes a little prodding to come out of his shell but Blaney shows the depth and the heart of these friendships. Along the way, there are a lot of laughs, entertainment, a little heartbreak and a tall tale involving some Japanese gangsters.
The experience shown, while not unique to the island of Ireland, is very common there. It is a mostly male experience, where a lot of men find a space in the pub to express themselves and their friendships. Focusing on something so based in alcohol is not always such a good thing, but writer Jack Gallagher is interested in showing the bonds and the camaraderie between these men, which goes a lot deeper than first appears – formed over now, kept up with, a few pints. We often hear plays or stories ripped from the headlines but, The Best Pints uses small and familiar conversations with friends to give an evening of laughs and to remind us of the value of friendships, even if sometimes we might boil it down to just an evening in a pub.
These are the conversations and the arguments and the banter I’ve had, and still have with friends. I can assure you that David is 100% right when he notes that a 400ml can of stout is not a pint of stout and therefore should be discounted from consideration, and if any of my friends tried that argument, there would have been ructions. Laughs, chats and pints – another round please!
Written by Jack Gallagher
Directed by Kay Dent
The Best Pints plays at The Hope Theatre next on 29 and 30 January. Further information and bookings can be found here.