Café owner Sean Ginty is a quiet and unassuming man who wears a watch that stopped over twenty five years ago. DC Mackey, from the Paradise Heights police, is a burnt out and bitter man, with an eye for opportunity and the other eye on Sean. When a woman turns up late in the café one night, a horrific chain of events is set in motion…
Joe O’Byrne’s Tales from Paradise Heights series has gone from strength to strength, each play standing alone, but building on a wider world for those hooked to the series from “Salford’s Scorcese”. My first excursion into the world of Paradise Heights takes place amongst lino covered tables and apple and pear sausages to die for – Diane’s Deli.
Tautly crafted by O’Byrne, Diane’s Deli is a tight piece with many different layers to it. Central to the story is deli owner Sean Ginty (Joe O’Byrne) Fiercely protective of his so-called ‘family’ of staff, aspiring playwright Jake (Richard Allen) and acclaimed artist Gabrielle (Jo Malone), he just wants a quiet unassuming life without the looming spectre of hard man Frank Morgan. It won’t be easy for Sean though as Paradise Height’s finest (and alcoholic) cop DS Mackey (David Edward-Robertson) becomes the thorn in his side.
Sean and waitress Gabrielle both have dark pasts to come to terms with. Gabrielle was scarred as the result of a house fire as a child. Sean’s past is much darker, and as DS Mackey delves deeper, Sean’s life begins to fall apart.
O’Byrne’s writing is strong, lyrical and bold, with a nuanced performance of restrained anger to match. Thanks to some powerful scenes, especially a emotional one between Malone and O’Byrne in the second half, Diane’s Deli is remarkably gripping and refuses to let you go.
Elsewhere, Emma Laidlaw makes an impact as the devious and intense Cassandra. Seductive one minute, neurotic the next, it’s testament to Laidlaw’s performance that you’re not quite sure where Cassandra’s loyalties lie. Jo Malone is sweetly fractured as Gabrielle and has remarkable chemistry with O’Byrne. Whilst Richard Allen is at his best going all googly-eyed with a drug induced recollection. David Edward-Robertson puts in a solid performance as a cliched cop (the cliches even acknowledged by the tongue-in-cheek script) but really comes in his own by the second half as he gets more calculating and borderline evil.
Director Neil Bell stays true to the gritty nature of the script balancing moments of human drama with acts of shocking violence.
Brutally emotional and slickly crafted, Diane’s Deli is a thoroughly recommended excursion into the dangerously real world of Paradise Heights.
The Fiction Stroker gives Diane’s Deli four strokes out of five:
Diane’s Deli runs until Friday 30 August at The Kings Arms, Bloom St, Salford. You can read more about the play on the Paradise Heights website.
Diane’s Deli image by Darren McGinn.