Category Archives: Scotland

The First Dance

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
14th-19th May

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Real men don’t watch, top chick-flick, Dirty Dancing. They may have sat in a room when the DVD was playing but they were not looking. Most probably their thoughts were about something entirely masculine, like the sweaty, raw, grappling, physicality of a scrum at rugby. This could be a problem for Rhoda as she plans the ‘first dance’ at her upcoming wedding, because fiancé Terry is an oval ball enthusiast and a bit of a man’s man, not too keen on Terpsichore. To realise her big day’s dream of recreating the leaping finale in the 1980s film, she seeks the assistance of dance tutor Gavin. His theatrical posturing is not to Terry’s taste and the latter displays his homophobia by directing a shocking epithet at the instructor (cue sharp intake of breath from the audience). Regardless of this, a determined Rhoda will have her way. But there’s another problem, due to their strict religious beliefs, the couple cannot engage in anything involving close proximity, until after they’ve exchanged wedding vows. Adaptable Gavin will have to partner each separately. In this case it takes three to tango; he will be Patrick Swayze’s ‘Johnny’ for Rhoda… and Jennifer Grey’s ‘Baby’ for Terry.

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Darren Brownlie’s Gavin is a versatile delight, whether gathering himself in grief, sorrowfully owning the silences, or twisting, flexing, bending (has the man no ligaments) while delivering waspish retorts to any slights. Jo Freer’s Rhoda is the kind of woman who wears the trousers. Not only that, she keeps the Wedding Fund bank card and its PIN number, in the pocket of those trousers. She envisions a precise, fundamental future for herself and the man she hopes to create. Think Lady Macbeth but without the milky kindness. Daniel Cahill’s Terry is caught up in events, struggling with doubts about his upcoming marriage, trying to realise exactly who he is. A solid fortress of a man anxious not to have his drawbridge lowered.

Martin McCormick’s play, a satisfying mixture of the serious and comic, entertains right through to its uplifting conclusion. You’ll have the time of your life.

David G Moffat

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Chic Murray: A Funny Place for a Window

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
14th-19th May

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Imagine you’re in Scotland. The bells to welcome Ne’erday are still echoing across the frosty rooftops when there’s a knock at your door. You answer to see a large man with an avuncular smile wearing a small bunnet. He hands you a twelve inch ruler and says, “Happy New Year, here’s your first foot.” Congratulations, you’re in a Chic Murray joke and there’s a wheen of his gags to be enjoyed in this entertaining comedy, written and directed by Stuart Hepburn.

Maidie, Chic’s wife, is looking through a box of old theatre bills, recalling when she first met the tall droll man while seeking theatrical digs at his mother’s house. Two years later they’re married and encouraged by his wife, Chic starts telling his jokes on stage. Initially a reluctant performer, Maidie gives him advice on technique, pointers on timing and soon his own style of surreal humour is getting attention from rapt audiences… and admiring chorus girls. As TV and film rolls beckon, he and Maidie start to drift apart.

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IMG_7662.JPGDave Anderson is Chic, punctuating the accentuated chimes of his dialogue with fractional pauses, delaying the entirely logical denouement that illustrates the absurd. (Obviously he can’t get you mince when he’s passing the butcher’s… he’d have to go inside.) From the arms that dangle as if Chic didn’t know what to do with them, to the narrowing eyes and rakish grin of collusion with his audience, all the Murray mannerisms are on display.

Kate Donnelly is Maidie, a woman keen to encourage and support her husband, willing to swap her successful singing, tap and accordion act to play second fiddle to Chic.
The ensemble is played by Brian James O’Sullivan, a Jack and master of all trades. He acts, sings, plays accordion and piano. His rectus grinning Liberace is a particular delight. The author, cast and Chic’s jokes, create an hour of comedy that gives everyone in the packed audience a lift… which (as the man himself would have said) is of precious little use to those who live in bungalows.

David G Moffat

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Exploring the Glasgow Pantosphere

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Oran Mor / The Tron
Glasgow
06/12/17


CINDERELLA 2
The Oran Mor, Glasgow
27th Nov – 30th Dec

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IMG_7064i, Joanne McGuinness.jpgFor 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.

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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.

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ALICE IN WEEGIELAND
The Tron, Glasgow
Dec 1st – Jan 7th

Script: five-stars Stagecraft: five-stars  Performance: four-stars.png

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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.

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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.

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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

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A Christmas Carol

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Dundee Rep
30 Nov – 31 Dec

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: five-stars   Performance: four-stars.png


“Imagine a time…” begins the narrator, setting the scene of a bustling city on Christmas Eve. On stage, Christmas Eve shoppers rush around, buying that last-minute trimming for the next day’s festivities, wishing each other a Merry Christmas and young children skip excitedly, bursting with anticipation of presents under trees. It could be the present day. But we know its not — we’ve come to see the well-beloved Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and hear again the story of one Ebenezer Scrooge and how his miserly ways are turned around by the three spectral visitations from the past, present and future. It’s as familiar a recipe as Christmas pudding, right?

DSC_8758.jpgDundee Rep’s production, skilfully adapted for stage by Neil Duffield, takes a fresh pull at this Christmas cracker. And what a treat there is inside! It’s Ebenezer, the zero-hours boss, the protean anti-society capitalist, the nemesis of workers everywhere, as a woman! Not a gender-bending pantomime dame, but a real hard-nosed, iron-hearted woman. And Scrooge as a woman, so utterly black heartedly played by Anne Louise Ross, has slipped a nip of something enlivening into the familiar, and the result is a truly magical mix of fun and song – even some literal shocks – for young and old alike.

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The opening night of Dundee Rep’s Christmas offering was a joyous event. The ensemble cast recreated the familiar tale with a loving respect for the original story, interweaving the action with superb medleys of Christmas carols throughout, and the audience, young and old alike, joyfully joined in with the singing.

The cast play well together, turning up both the humour and sentimentality of Dickens’ original story to just the right temperature. All the old favourite characters are lovingly recreated; Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley, Mr and Mrs Fezziwig and Tiny Tim, played by Oliver Mulholland and Harrison Hughes, pulled on the heart strings perfectly. Look out for the mischief made by the ghosts with Scrooge’s bedtime routine!

Settings and costumes were evocative and expressive and detailed, making the whole event a delight for the eyes as much as the heart. Scene changes happened with brandy-butter smoothness. The audience were magically transported with Scrooge and her ghostly guides to scenes from the past, to discover just how she came to be so mean, then whisked away to see happy Christmas revellers mix in the present and on to a dark foreboding future that, like a Christmas pudding, had a real flaming topping!

Take a young person to see this wonderful, faithful production, or just go see it yourself and believe in the power of Christmas – for a while at least!

Reviewer : Mark MacKenzie

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The Weir Sisters

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
20-25 November, 2017

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It’s Christmas day in Paradise and young Grace who passed away in the 1940s, is all a flutter, laying out the sausage rolls and Bristol Cream in anticipation of a very special visitor. She is assisted by her older, down-to-earth sister Margaret, who refuses to use the ‘Chalice of Vision’ to keep up with terrestrial events. She’ll only stick her face in water if it’s to dook for apples. A celestial bell announces the arrival of a third sister, the recently expired, doddery Dorothy. Difficult truths can at last be divulged and sibling forgiveness sought.

IMG_6928i Deborah Arnott, Sandra  McNeeley, Meghan Tyler.jpgMeghan Tyler is wonderfully endearing as the aptly named Grace, bringing a wide-eyed earnest innocence to the role. Sandra McNeely’s feisty Margaret delivers the best of the jokes while Deborah Arnott as Dorothy, has the saddest tale to tell. As her ancient form uncoils from her zimmer to rediscover her youthful stature (you get to choose your preferred age in heaven) her accent, for no apparent reason, mysteriously transforms from that of the Western Isles to Glaswegian???

Lynn Ferguson’s admirable play has humour, pathos and a large dollop of yuletide sentimentality that would please Frank Capra and bring a tear to old man Potter’s eye. The production is a worthy finale to Oran Mor’s Autumn Season.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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Kind Stranger

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor,Glasgow
13-18 November 2017

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Why would someone choose to be a regular hospital visitor? Do they have a philanthropic wish to do good work, or maybe just enjoy the sound of their own voice? The eponymous kind stranger (Tom Urie) pops into a room with one bed, to find he has a captive audience as the patient is in a coma. This presents no obstacle to the jolly, wisecracking visitor, (“Hands up who disnae want a story?”) he has a bag-full of books from which he can read aloud. Tellingly his favourite is A Christmas Carol, with its supernatural tale of a life turned around and redemption attained.

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This one-man play by Matthew McVarish appears to be a straight forward account of the visitor’s life, his fear and rejection before finding love and acceptance but as he reveals more about his life, we start to question if this linear narrative is all that it seems to be. The dialogue when varying from bouncy knockabout to gloomy introspection works well but the preponderance of enlightening quotes from Hippocrates, Sophocles, Buddha, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Dolly Parton and many others, does seem a bit much, even for a well-read man. Urie puts in a fine performance as the irrepressible visitor, whose layers of brash confidence are slowly shed to reveal an unexpected sensitivity. The denouement may have you scratching your head a bit- but in a good way.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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Lampedusa

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Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
08 Nov 2017 – 18 Nov 2017

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I will be honest, Lampedusa by Wonder Fools makes for an uncomfortable watch. In the intimate black box that is Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre Circle Studio we find ourselves extremely close to the two actors whose interleaved monologues we listen to, but that is not where the discomfort lies. It is in Anders Lustgarten’s play, which takes the global problem of mass migration and forces us to face that it is everyone’s responsibility. He also shines an unflinching spotlight on some home grown issues: institutionalised attitudes to the poor and, he argues, endemic racism.

Stefano, an Italian ex-fisherman salvaging the bodies of drowned trafficked migrants from North Africa from the sea off the island of Lampedusa, describes what happens to bodies after days and weeks in the water. He says he gets used to the shock of finding them, but the dread as to what condition they will be in never goes away. His distress is accompanied by rage: “Where is everybody else?” he cries and when he reads of a disaster or a crisis he can predict who will be turning up on Europe’s shores next. Of those who survive he says “I resent them for their hope,” because he has none: the fish have gone, his country is a basket case.

The other protagonist, Denise, a mixed-race student in Leeds is funding her studies by acting as a pay day loan collector from people who spit on her, and racially abuse her. She is also in a vehement battle with work capability assessors over her sick mother’s clearly proven case for benefits. Like Stefano, her view of her own country and by extension, Europe, is that it is utterly broken; she will not be staying when she gets her degree. Describing herself as “mixed, mouthy and poor”, at times her impassioned speeches almost tip over into a diatribe, but a more nuanced performance (and writing) comes when her character meets with kindness. Indeed, this is the third theme of the play: kindness and friendship from the most unexpected quarters undoes both Stefano and Denise and liberates them from their bitterness and despair.

Both actors give committed performances of an exceptionally intelligent and humane play. Andy Clark as Stefano is particularly subtle and intense, while Louise Mai’s Denise is realistically brittle and angry. With music provided by guitarist/composer Stuart Ramage that is like a third voice in the play rather than an accompaniment to it, Lampedusa is that odd thing; an evening of very good theatre that will leave you feeling very uncomfortable.

Reviewer : Mary Thomson

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Meat Market

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A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
6-11 Nov

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We live in a world where everything has a price and is usually available at the click of a cursor. So if it’s 3am and a trio of disparate characters have a rendezvous in a 24 hour gym to discuss a purchase, surely something nefarious must be afoot? Well yes but to reveal the clever conceit at the centre of Chris Grady’s thoughtful dark comedy, would be criminal indeed.

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What does mercenary Alex (Megan Shandley), tall, confident and a robust picture of health, have that could interest wee Fran (Julie Duncanson), a chanty-mouthed bundle of perspiration in a sweatshirt and joggy bottoms? Could it be the same thing that cultured, epicurean Bruce (Robin Laing) hungers for? Will his silver tongue and well argued logic win the day?

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Though earthy Fran gets the best of the stinging banter, asking follicly challenged Bruce if he’s Bruce, as in Willis, as in ‘King of the Bald Guys’, all three actors are in fine contrasting form revealing their true motivations as the action progresses and personal ethics get a workout. This is a seriously funny, original piece of drama that’s well worth stretching your legs to get along and see.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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The Burton Taylor Affair

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A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
30th October – 4th November

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IMG_6818i Chelsey Gillard, Steven  Elliot.jpgA huge photographic portrait of a movie star with arched eyebrows, hooded eyes and sultry lips dominates the stage. Either side of the framed picture, luxurious swathes of golden drapes glitter but little else does, in this disappointing drama by Steven Elliot featuring a reminiscing, Richard Burton (Dewi Rhys Williams) and Elizabeth Taylor (Vivien Reid). Comparisons of the couples earnings, Oscar nominations, and capacity for alcohol are ping-ponged back and forward with little conflagration, while lengthy quotes from Shakespeare and Marlow, used to illustrate their tempestuous on screen/off screen relationship, offer the best of what little chemistry the actors have.

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The female movie star seems far too young to hold her own, in a verbal joust with the mature stage actor and one wonders if Williams is reluctant to let loose the throaty Welsh grit of the full-Burton voice, for fear of extinguishing Reid’s lacklustre Taylor completely. This is a story that requires something a bit special to intrigue an audience familiar with the antics of a real-life married twosome they have seen on screen and in all probability, as characters portrayed by other actors. The play and cast deliver a muted, far from legendary, piece of theatre.

Reviewer : David G Moffattwo-stars

#71

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A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
23-28 October 2017 

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Septuagenarian Chrissy (Karen Dunbar) is rarely without pain and having tried every pill on the planet, has come to a decision. She’s invited her two closest friends round to the house as there is big news to impart. While she waits she slowly dances, in the old fashioned way, with a framed photo of her departed husband. The two chums couldn’t be more different with Jean (Maureen Carr) a short, permed, devout, worrier, prone to repeated malapropisms and Coco (Clare Waugh) a tall, confident, woman of the world, littering her speech with dubious Parisian pretensions – N’est-ce pas?

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On a stage, impressively transformed into a conservatory, the women swap memories and insults while searching for the essential truth about love and death…as one does in Whiteinch. When Jean reveals she has a passion for Grime then hip-hops a song about her loss of faith, we know sooner or later, this will end in gin. The affection for Dunbar (who wrote the play) from the packed audience is palpable and each familiar Glasgow expression included in the dialogue is rewarded with the laughter of recognition. There is however, a paucity of genuinely funny lines, for the broadly caricatured characters, to deliver.

Reviewer : David G Moffat

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