Exploring the Glasgow Pantosphere
Oran Mor / The Tron
The Oran Mor, Glasgow
27th Nov – 30th Dec
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
For the past few months, The Mumble’s chief ambassador to the Oran Mor’s benevolent-in-so-many-ways Play, Pie & a Pint paradigm, David G Moffat has reviewed every single theatrical offering. Not wanting to go an entire season without tasting a piece & a pie, I cashed in my CEO chips & went Westside for Cinderella 2: I Married a Numpty. I was partaking for the first time in one of Glasgow’s startlingly native creative outputs, the brandy-imbued blancmange that is the city’s adult pantomime. All the boys & girls in the audience are grown up, but in the psyche of us all there is a mimesial box of affection just waiting to be opened by colours, sounds & dodgy puns. Thus, once the opening number had told us, with rather well-toned vocals, that pantomime’s ‘not just for wains anymore,’ I was ready to rock.
Written & directed by the erstwhile & perennially pretty Morag Fullerton, I went on to witness a slightly slapsticky, mostly amsuing boozecruise through the modern morphing of Commedia d’ell Arte. The comedic archetypes on this occasion are the cerebrally Blackpoolesque Auntie Etta (surname Dick), played by local lad & long time donjon of screen & stage, Dave Anderson; Joanne McGuinness as a fun & feisty Cinderella, Clare Waugh as her ugly sister, Wan-Tooth Winnie, & the high-status thespianity of John Kielty, who played both ‘shag-shag-shoot-shoot’ Prince Charming & the bumblingly beautiful, childrens’ presenteresque Buttheid, the rivals for Cinderella’s affections in love.
In fairy tales, perhaps the most unbelievable aspect is the notion that people live happily ever after, & so it has proved to be in Cindereallaworld, where the class divide between her & her posh prince is soon tearing at the tether with gold-plated or rotting teeth. As for the tradition, all the trimmings are there. Bouncy, chorus-catchy sing-a-long songs; the love potion motif, one I remembered from my last panto, sometime in the 1980s in Manchester, with my gran’s works from Burnley; there was speaking bluebird puppetry; the ‘O yes I did, O no you didn’t,’ sonic pendulum; the finale sing-song tonguetwister rolled out on a big canvas at the back of the stage, & so on. The script was snappy, native & of course, satirical, in the popular contemporaneity way. Auntie Etta had the best lines, especially her, ‘I feel like a chameleon traversing a kilt,‘ & her comments on acquiring the proper vestiges of minor celebrity ever since her niece married into royalty – these days she gets to call out bingo numbers in Partick Burgh Hall. The other three actors all gave top-grade performances, especially John Kielty who not only played two parts here, but is also starring in the Citizens panto, Hansel and Gretel, in the evenings. Overall, I Married a Numpty looks, sounds & feels great, & with the use of radio mics is one of the best immersive experiences I’ve ever had at the Oran Mor’s PPP. Unfortunately for most, the thing is completely sold-out, but if you are one of the lucky ones who has a ticket, you’re in for a treat. FOUR STARS.
ALICE IN WEEGIELAND
The Tron, Glasgow
Dec 1st – Jan 7th
After the Oran Mor, I intended to do a spot of Christmas shopping for the family, but in fact only visited Fopp & a couple of charity shops near the theatre where I rather selfishly bought stuff only for myself. I’m sure I am not alone in feeling an abject terror in buying ‘just the right thing’ for one’s loved ones at Christmas, & find comfort & solace in buying personalised tat instead. I then drove up to my pal’s house in Riddrie for a meal & a nap – Glasgow is soooooo exhausting – before returning to the city centre & the Tron for the second panto of the day. As soon as I arrived I realised this production would also be catering for children. Two groups of brownies – a 22 & a 48 according to the usher – had filled the auditorium to capacity. ‘Wooaah, wooaah, wooaahh,’ I thought to myself, this panto was written by Johnny McKnight, whose Wendy Hoose I reviewed at last year’s Fringe, & which was, one would say, unsuitable for children.
I need not have worried. McKnight has created something straight out of the Alexander Makeev school of Panto. In St Petersburg in the 1980s, Makeev began experimenting with dance, clowning & drama to create a style which appeals to adults & to children alike. Alice In Weegieland is a perfect example of the model, whose colloquial, lyrical comedy is downright genius. The story is based, of course, on Alice in Wonderland. ‘Do you wanna come down & have a swatch?‘ asks Scott Fletcher’s slick, red-haired, camptastic Knave of Hearts. Alice agrees, played calmly & cutely by Daisy Ann Fletcher, whose recent failure at ballet class has sent her spinning headfirst into the metaphorical depths of redemption. Down the hole, Alice soon finds that the playing cards of Lewis Carrol’s made-up land have been replaced by chip-tossing, sweet-chucking burberry chavs. ‘Welcome to Weegieland,‘ they sing to the fun musicality of just-by-the-stage, orange-suited musical maestro, Ross Brown, ‘where we work hard for cash in hand.’ ‘Welcome to Weegieland,‘ they sing again, ‘where drinking outside has been banned!’ Then enters the brilliant, street-shuffling, glitterblinging, jittery Doormouse, played with sublime authenticity by Jo Freer. Next up was Julie Wilson Nimmo’s Catterpillar, Catty P, whose remarkable costume was just one of the many aesthetic gems that made up the joyously twinkling dramaturgical tiara that crowned McKnight’s superlative-pregnant panto.
The star of the show, & of probably the theatrical year as far as I am concerned, was Darren Brownlie. Both his characters were in drag – Frauline Rot the ballet teacher, & the Queen of Hearts, & both were beyond brilliant. Through his decisive, supernova performances, & all the rest of the oomph & bumph of pantomime in its prime, Alice in Weegieland is a glossy explosion & riotous romp through Glasgow’s ‘otherverse.’ Occasionally, I found that the subplots were clung onto a tad too much, the re-explanations spoiling the flow somewhat, but the show is a full 2 hours long & the time needed to be filled. A couple of cuts here & there & we would have a masterpiece on our hands. A few seats are still available for Alice in Weegieland this year, not many mind, & it is worth travelling to from all parts of Scotland to watch with, I’d say, kids above the age of 10. FIVE STARS