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May 28th

Noises Off at King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Noises Off, the play that makes a farce out of theatrics (or vice versa), has arrived at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre for a one week run of side-splitting comedy before continuing its national tour.

“Noises Off” is named after a common stage direction written in theatrical scripts.  It is often given as a note to prompt a sound effect in a stage production with the effect that the audience will ‘hear’ what is happening in action offstage.  It is most common in comedy as the sound of an impact or clamour or fight or a fall can often be as funny for an audience as actually seeing the action.  The name hints that the audience of this show are about to see elements of theatre which are normally hidden from view – and, boy, do the audience get more than they bargained for!

Noises OffThe story centres around a touring production of a farce called “Nothing On”.  From the outset there are stresses among the company as the performances are clearly less than perfect with just a few hours to go until the curtain rises on opening night.  In Act 1, the company are running the Dress / Technical Rehearsal with several comedic interruptions from the Director, Lloyd Dallas (Neil Pearson) as various aspects of the show go wrong.  This sets the scene delightfully for the mayhem which will follow in Acts 2 and 3 as we get a demonstration of what should happen onstage as well as an introduction to the actors and crew and their complex relationships.  After the interval we re-join the company half-way through the tour.  This time we view the action from backstage during a live performance of the play.  Living and working in close proximity to each other has taken a significant toll on the relationships between the actors and crew.  Several actors threaten to not go on with the show, many threaten violence on others and some follow through with their threats … all the while the show is played in the background to a ‘matinee’ audience who must wonder why the doors in this farce are being slammed particularly loudly!  Act 3 sees the company at their final venue and we watch the action once again from the auditorium.  To say the show has deteriorated would be the understatement of the century.  In fact, everything that can go wrong does go wrong and, knowing how the play should run from Act 1, the audience are ‘in’ on every joke.

The Backstage ComedyThe comedy has universal appeal with a classic ‘Carry On’ style and lots of physical comedy to hook anyone who enjoys a good belly-laugh.  Fans of the genre and anyone who has trod the boards in any capacity will find this show particularly funny.   The extensive use of props has to be mentioned as these provide an endless source of mirth.  Props are the bane of every actor’s life as they often seem to have a mind (and legs) of their own.  As the props from the onstage farce and the backstage antics of the cast and crew are mingled in Act 2 you really have to marvel at the complex choreography which sees them change hands endlessly to great comic effect.

The cast were universally excellent as they delivered this “farce within a farce” holding two characters each while all hell breaks loose around them.  Direction from Lindsay Posner builds pace beautifully and the farce is simply outrageous by the end.  Design by Peter McKintosh and set construction by Rocket Scenery was wonderfully solid as doors were slammed around the stage at incredible pace.  The backstage view of the action was very practical and wonderfully convincing.

One of the funniest nights out you will ever experience.  The tour continues to Edinburgh Playhouse from 4th to 8th June.
 

NOISES OFF
Mon 27 – Sat 1 June 27
Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm
Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm
Tickets: £10 - £29.50
Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee)
www.atgtickets.com/glasgow  (bkg fee)

May 16th

Ghost - The Musical at Edinburgh Playhouse

By Cameron Lowe
Hot from a successful run in the West End garnering no fewer than 5 Olivier Award nominations, Ghost The Musical comes to Edinburgh with the high expectations of the ticket buying public resting on its ethereal shoulders. But Ghost The Musical is no insubstantial phantom ... with a story famous for drawing many a tear in cinemas and around TV screens since 1990 and a score from Eurythmics supremo, Dave Stewart, could this touring show also live up to the hype whipped up in London around its astonishing technical prowess?

Ghost The Musical

From the off, the audience are literally dazzled by what seems like millions of watts of luminescence before we are introduced to the principal characters. Sam (Stewart Clarke) and Molly (Rebecca Trehearn) are in love - although he never says the words. Sam's best friend and work colleague, Carl (David Roberts), helps the couple with renovations in their newly purchased New York loft apartment. But, before the couple's love can be truely established, Sam is killed in an apparent robbery attempt. Things are not as they seem and Sam's ghostly spirit remains on Earth to resolve the mystery of his murder. In doing so, he engages the help of psychic Oda Mae Brown (Karlene Wray) resulting in as many laughs as tears.

Rebecca Trehearn and Stewart Clarke

Without a doubt, this is the most technically astonishing and accomplished show I have ever seen on tour. If you have seen the movie (and who hasn't?) you can begin to imagine the difficulty in transferring the effects which are core to the story onto a live stage. Diverse expertise from projection and automation to direction, choreography, costume design and illusion come together almost seamlessly to deliver what (from my seat in the stalls) was an incredibly convincing narrative - despite its real world physical impossibility. In addition, the wizardry of set design from Rob Howell based on several flying stage-width video screens combined with convincingly solid elements to not only set the scene but also add depth and excitement to several beautifully choreographed chorus numbers. The subway sequence in the first act was so good ... I began to wonder if there was any future in 3D Cinema when something this good could be done live!

Sadly, onstage I found it easier to believe in Ghosts than to believe in Sam and Molly's relationship while he was alive. Ironically, it was after Sam's death (while the characters could no longer interact with each other) that I began to believe in the onstage emotion. Rebecca Trehearn's rendition of "With You" was heartfelt and the Act One finale added some drive to the principals' actions and feelings. Karlene Wray stepped up well to understudy the role of Oda Mae and seemed to be positively channelling Whoopi Goldberg. She brought several laugh out loud moments and delivered a cracking second act rendition of "I'm Outta Here". David Roberts convinced throughout as the pressure escalated on his character.

This is a great show with a good score and solid storyline as well as the eye-popping special effects. Like its namesake, Ghost has to be seen to be believed.

Ghost The Musical
Edinburgh Playhouse
14 May to 1 June 2013
Tickets £12.90 - £48.90
Box Office: 0131 524 3333 (booking fee)
Book online (booking fee)
May 9th

Hairspray at King’s Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Cameron Lowe

Welcome to the Sixties!  Musical theatre’s most colourful and energetic touring production reached Glasgow this week as HAIRSPRAY exploded onto the King’s Theatre stage with its trademark fun, verve and HUGE hairdoooos!!

Hairspray

For many, Hairspray epitomises a great night out at the theatre.  The show is full of laughs, love, catchy tunes and a couple of characters that you love to hate.  The sixties setting gives a great opportunity to go overboard on zany costumes and scenery and there are more high energy chorus and dance numbers than you can shake a sixties stick at.

It’s 1962 and larger than life (in more ways than one) teen, Tracy Turnblad (Freya Sutton), dreams of appearing on the Corny Collins Show – Baltimore’s TV Dance sensation.  Her (even larger) mother, Edna (Mark Benton), tries to keep her feet on the ground as she knows that “people like us don’t get on TV”.  Determined to achieve her goal, Tracy learns some cool dance moves from her friend Seaweed (Marcus Collins) but realises that she can never dance with Seaweed on TV because he is black and segregation is the norm in 1962.  Tracy sets out to change all that …

Hairspray CastCultural change on racial segregation sounds like a heavy backdrop for a musical, but the innocence of Tracy’s character keeps the story lighter than light and the race issue only serves to identify who the ‘bad guys’ are in the tale.  The overwhelming joy of the show comes from the sheer energy of it.  Two huge song and dance chorus numbers are delivered before the first word of dialogue and the pace never lets up from the “Good Morning Baltimore” opener to the “You Can’t Stop The Beat” finale.

Colourful costumes from William Ivey Long complimented whacky set design from David Rockwell.  Director, Jack O’Brien, made the most of the contrasts of casting as contrast was a clear theme throughout.  Tracy was big while her friend Penny (Lauren Hood) was skinny.  Edna was tall while husband, Wilbur (Paul Rider), was small and this physicality was used to great comic effect.

Paul Rider, Sandra Marvin and Mark BentonOn stage, newcomer Freya Sutton carried the narrative well and delivered a superb all round performance.  Double acts from Mark Benton / Paul Rider and Lucy Benjamin / Gemma Sutton (as the ‘we love to hate them’ Von Tussles) produced some great entertainment with support from a fantastic ensemble cast.  Lauren Hood was a stand-out as skinny pal, Penny, who was given a chance to really shine at the end of the show – and boy, did she take it!  But the stand up, sit down, blow your socks off moment must be attributed to the incredible vocal talents of Sandra Marvin as Motormouth Maybelle.  Her rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been” had the entire audience wondering where their socks had gone at the end of the night.  She nailed the ‘money note’ 8 bars from the end and the audience couldn’t help but clap and cheer all the way through the final harmonies.  Amazing.

Beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket to see this show before it leaves Glasgow on 18th May.

HAIRSPRAY

Tue 7 – Sat 18 May

Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £17.50 - £44.50

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee)

BOOK ONLINE (bkg fee)

May 2nd

Highland Fling (Scottish Ballet) - 27th Apr – 4th May 2013, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Jon Cuthbertson

Highland Fling.jpg 

A ballet where the lights come up on a gents toilet, the leading man snorts drugs and collapses in a urinal, and not a tutu in sight – this is Matthew Bourne at his best. I remember the very first tour of Highland Fling and the shock that it generated – this came before his all male Swan Lake, before the nudity in The Carman and before his whimsical look at The Nutcracker. Matthew Bourne had taken the romantic story of La Sylphide and updated it for the Trainspotting era. This gritty modern edge still works today, and although it may be less shocking on the second viewing, it is still just as entertaining.

Scottish Ballet are the first company that Matthew Bourne has allowed to present one of his full length productions – and the talent on show tonight confirms that he has been waiting for just the right offer. Matthew Bourne’s own company are reknowned for their ability to act through dance, something I have always seen as a skill displayed exceptionally well by Scottish Ballet’s artistes. Christopher Harrison as James not only has excellent technical skill, shown in the effortless lifts and solo work, boundless energy – he is very rarely off stage – but more importantly the charisma and wit to make the audience empathise with his character – and all of this without saying a single word. Sophie Martin as the Sylph and Katie Webb as Effie make two great and contrasting leading ladies. The supporting cast also provide a wonderful variety of characters and that is what lifts this piece to another level theatrically.

To continue the wit of the production, the costume design is a delight, awash with more tartan than an Edinburgh Woollen Mill display cabinet. The subtle use of the white kilts and dresses for Les Sylphides, with the addition of sashes in a nod to traditional Scottish Country dancing costumes was indicative of the level of detail the creative teams have gone to in order to create a unified vision.

If Matthew Bourne had any concerns about allowing another company to perform his work, this will surely have allayed his fears. It has also given his production another edge in that we now get to see it performed with a live orchestra, something I have always felt was missing in his own company productions. Thankfully, Scottish Ballet are keeping live theatre live, with exceptional dance and a wonderful score performed by talented musicians – all you need to do is buy a ticket, take a deep breath, sit back and enjoy!

Listings

Theatre Royal, Glasgow: 27th April – 4th May
Eden Court, Inverness: 9th – 11th May
His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen: 16th – 18th May
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh: 22nd – 25th May

Book: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com

May 1st

High Society at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow (30 Apr – 4 May 2013)

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Cameron Lowe

 

High Society

Recently I’ve been thinking that a lot of classic musical shows are no longer standing the test of time.  The advent of exciting new productions like Mamma Mia, Wicked and Matilda make it clear that fast paced narrative and knock-em-dead soundtracks can be delivered with great success in a two hour theatre event.  This makes even time honoured classics from great writers like Rogers and Hammerstein and Cole Porter seem a little slow and outdated – not simply regarding their subject matter, but also in terms of pace and presentation to a modern audience who want more from a show than simply a few well known tunes.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if producers could give some of the classics a “re-boot”?  I mean, it worked for superheroes like Batman and Spiderman … so why not re-boot a classic musical?  “High Society” very nearly delivers that … but (for me) falls a little short of perfect!

 

The action takes place in and around the huge family homes of the Lords where a society wedding is about to be held for Tracy Lord (Sophie Bould) and George Kittredge (Keiron Crook).  The year is 1938; a time when (no matter your riches) a family history of divorce and drunkenness generates whispers at parties and society column inches!  Tracy’s marriage is a rebound following her divorce from true love, Dexter Haven (Michael Praed).  Dexter regrets letting Tracy slip through his fingers; a view shared by Tracy’s family, particularly her younger sister Dinah (Katie Lee).  The show boasts a great Cole Porter score including “True Love”, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and “Well, Did You Evah?”.

 

This production has had a dazzling makeover since the show originally graced the West-End stage in 1987.  A “re-boot”, if you will.  More Cole Porter classics have been added to the score (“Just One of Those Things”, “Let’s Misbehave”) and the wordy script has been trimmed heroically.  But the biggest success must be attributed to the snappy direction of Anna Linstrum combined with the impressive revolving set designed by Francis O’Connor.  Linstrum critically retains the engagement of the audience as we are treated to many locations around the Lord mansions with sets rearranged by the cast in seamless choreography.  The direction maintains energy and flow onstage with particularly creative use of props – just watch for champagne bottles, drink trays, muffins and even toast to see what I mean!  Choreography from Andrew Wright was lively and further utilised props to the delight of the audience.  I still felt, even with all this creativity, that the talented ensemble were underused – frankly, the show needs at least two more chorus numbers – but the conversion of “Well Did You Evah” into a full on dance and comedy routine from the entire cast brought a huge grin.

 

High Society Cast

Onstage, performance were faultless and, occasionally, outstanding.  Young Katie Lee stole every scene that she was in with boundless energy and a character that was just right.  Leading performances from Sophie Bould and Michael Praed were excellent with Ms Bould’s vocals effortlessly delivering the timeless Cole Porter score and Mr Praed characterising a suave yet affable Dexter Haven (a difficult balancing act).  Teddy Kempner was hilarious as Uncle Willie; delivering a string of drunken one-liners to the joy of the audience.  Daniel Boys and Alex Young gave great support as the society reporters, Mike and Liz.  Ms Young was particularly likeable as the wise-cracking (yet smitten) Liz Imbrie.

 

This was a very likeable production with more than a few moments of genius.  I can see room to improve the show further but there is definitely life in this Cole Porter classic yet … I hope it is not another 25 years before we see it back in Glasgow!

 

High Society

Tue 30 April – Sat 4 May

Tue – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £10 - £29.50

0844 871 7648
BOOK ONLINE

Apr 19th

Thriller Live at the King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

This celebration of Michael Jackson’s music and unique dance style returns to the King’s Theatre with a performance powerful enough to turn your socks white and blow one glove off your hand!

 

Thriller Live

Thriller Live delivers the MJ magic in spades with a loosely chronological review of his music from the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” through to his 1995 release “Earth Song”.  The presentation style was unusual for a stage show, delivering a documentary of Michael Jackson’s musical history and record breaking achievements rather than a more traditional biopic.  This lent itself to a focus on the music and dance rather than the star’s controversial live story.  With such a rich back catalogue of music to choose from over a 30 year period, the delivery did not disappoint the audience.  The deceptively simple fixed set proved to be incredibly dynamic as a huge movie screens featuring dazzling effects, movie clips and photos became transparent on several occasions to reveal the live onstage band.

 

The unique Jackson 5 sound was authentically reproduced from the off, but the glove (quite literally) came off in the second act as tens of millions of pounds of the worlds most expensive music promotion videos were reproduced live on stage!  The choreography, styling and effects of “Smooth Criminal” were just mind blowing.  There was a very moving performance of “Man in the Mirror”– the song which topped the UK charts following Michael Jackson’s untimely death in 2009.  Other MJ high notes were hit by Samantha Johnson and talented fellow vocalists John Moabi, Andrew Derbyshire and “Oggie”.  The signature fedora hat should also be tipped forward in recognition of the diminutive talents of Emmanuel Sakyi who played young Michael in his first professional role.  My ‘plucked from obscurity’ award for this production goes to dancer, Kamilah Beckles, who was simply mesmerising!

 

Live onstage

This production was so slick it had my “click track” senses tingling (particularly in reference to the backing vocals), however I was won over by astonishing solo vocals and high energy dance routines that followed the unique MJ style flawlessly through three decades of hits.  This show will have you moonwalking in the aisles.  Shamone!

 

THRILLER LIVE

Thu 18 – Sun 21 Apr

Fri 5pm & 8pm

Sat & Sun 3pm & 7.30pm

Tickets: £10 - £32

Box Office 08448 717 648 (Bkg fee)

Book Online (bkg fee)

Apr 9th

Birdsong - King's Theatre Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Nicol Gilmour

Birdsong

Sebastian Faulk’s much-loved bestseller was always going to be hard to transform to the stage especially in only 2 hours and 40 minutes.  Rachel Wagstaff’s stage version is a fantastic and much loved piece of writing that I urge anyone, to go and see.  Alistair Whatley’s direction is exquisite, having his actors play between past and present moments throughout the play.  He also uses lighting and sound to his advantage, having the audience jumping out of their seats at times with explosions of war.  That being said, my review should start with the opening; a fantastic set designed by Victoria Spearing is displayed to the audience which is wreathed in smoke and looking rather dirty. The design is complex, with makeshift tunnels and an upper platform where, for me, the most important part of the set is revealed but never referenced at any time through the play; a makeshift cross up stage centre.  The use of lighting and the sound of live music make it an eerie entrance to any audience member.

The cast begin by playing an open stage that turns to song with the banter of men at war away from their wives and mothers.  For me, this was a rather weak opening and it took me around 10 minutes to start enjoying not only the performance of the actors but the writing of Wagstaff.  This left me to wonder why this scene was included in the play; a poor opening from which it was difficult to recover.

But recover it did, thanks to an outstanding cast headed by Tim Treloar (Jack Firebrace) as one of two leading men alongside Jonathan Smith (Stephen Wraysford).

For those that have read the book, the characters of Stephen, Jack, Tipper and Gray all recreate the horror and fear felt by those fighting in France in the early 20th century.  At the same time they share with the audience the sense of camaraderie, and even humour, they express as the men try to deal with the terror of being on the front line over and underground.

We are taken on a journey as Jack Firebrace, a former miner and the joker of the group, learns from his letters from home that his young son John, who is in poor health and been hospitalised, is not in a good way and seeks leave from his captain.  Treloar’s performance is nothing but sensational.  His choices of subtle changes in emotion are outstanding and his scenes in the 2nd act alongside Stephen were so powerful that the audience could feel raw emotion brewing.

Smith’s performance as Stephen is strong and rooted playing his scenes with a sense of snobbery. This leads us to his affair with a married woman (Isabelle Azaire) in Amiens (France) prior to the war. The affair is played out through flashbacks in his mind.  He dwells on memories of Isabelle to try and see him through his darkest periods.  Smith’s character is played with innocence during his and Isabelle’s affair but he becomes desolate and traumatised as he leads his men through the carnage of the Battle of the Somme.

The cast are fantastically supported by Sarah Jayne Dunn (Isabelle Azaire), Malcolm James (Rene Azaire) with the fantastic comic timing of Tim Van Eyken (Evans) who also accompanies himself on accordion.  Musically, Joshua Higgott’s (Brennan) singing voice and recorded piano playing are a joy to listen to and set the scene for him to underscore other cast members.  If I could ask anything further of this cast it would be diction.  The dialogue features several different accents and dialects and, at times, lines were rushed and the audience could not keep up with some of the more amusing lines with words being garbled.

Scenes to look out for are a superb ballet section between Stephen and Isabelle on starting their affair and Jack and Stephen’s final scene in a tunnel blown up by the Germans and close to death.

This production is proudly supporting the help for hero’s charity and brings home not only the truth of WW1 but also the fear, astonishment and sadness that was WW2.

Birdsong

Kings Theatre Glasgow

Mon 8 – Sat 13 April

Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £10 - £25.00

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee)

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)

Mar 27th

The Blues Brothers - The Smash Hit at King's Theatre, Glasgow

By Cameron Lowe
The Blues Brothers - ApprovedReview by Christopher Lowe

The smash hit show Blues Brothers arrives at the King’s Theatre for a limited time only!

Last time around they smashed box office records, crashed, crooned and rocked their way into the lives of anyone with a heartbeat! This show brings you all of those amazing, favourite and classic moments once again.

This upbeat musical, based on the cult 1980 film starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, follows Jake and Elwood on an eventful tour of the US.  Armed with new twists, moves and freshly laundered suits, Jake (Brad Henshaw) and Elwood (Chris Chandler) are on a mission to bring ‘Soul and Blues’ into the heart of Glasgow.  Joining them are the fabulous ‘Bluettes’ (Played by Alexus Ruth, Jenny Fitzpatrick and Jenessa Qua).

Once up and running the audience are treated to the fast paced energy associated with Blues Brothers performances, belting out all the well-loved songs including “Soul Man”, “Everybody Needs Somebody”, “Gimme Some Lovin’”, “Rawhide”, and many more.

Chandler and Henshaw share the spirit of the original in this high energy, fast paced show. Both are vocally capable, and Fletcher does a good job in recapturing the deadpan persona of Aykroyd's creation. The two leads share the majority of the songs and are happy belting out the well-known tracks.

The other stars of the show are the fantastic band and supporting singers whom as well as providing backing vocals, step up centre stage and provide fantastic highlights of the evening that include ‘Minnie the Moocher’ and ‘Think’ (gaining easily the loudest cheers of the night).

Bring out your fedora’s and dig out your shades and prepare to party like never before because The Blues Brothers are back in town!

The Blues Brothers Approved
King's Theatre, Glasgow
Mon 25 – Wed 27 March
Mon – Wed eves 7.30pm
Tickets: £10 - £25
Box Office 0844 871 7648 (Bkg fee)
www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)
Mar 23rd

Punch Pandemonium Goes To ... The Theatre

By Cameron Lowe

Review by Cameron Lowe

Punch Pendemonium Goes To ... The Theatre

Punch Productions present the latest in their series of adult sketch shows as part of Glasgow's established Magners International Comedy Festival.

The venue for this two night event is Jaks Nightclub on Sauchiehall Street. Not a bad space at all for this popular festival with the only real compromise being the ambient temperature.  One punter claimed he had to push aside a polar bear to get a good seat in this sell out gig!

The Punch writing team have really hit their stride as they cover a topic close to their hearts.  Previous Pandemonium outings include "The Pub" and "The Hospital" but their enthusiasm for this latest destination really shone through.

The variety of characters across the dozen or so sketches was impressive.  Old lady members of the audience who hum the tunes and rustle loud plastic bags, overconfident performers, angry choreographers, biscuit munching committee members and competitive members of the chorus were just some of the highlights.  Roy McGregor as "Chav" and Patricia Welch as "Professional Director" delivered particularly strong performances in the workshop sketch but the cast's universal commitment to delivering strong, believable and easily identifiable characters was key to the success of the sketch format.

The company demonstrated a broad range of talents by incorporating music and choreography.  Lyric rewrites of well known musical numbers were occasionally juvenile but the original opening number from David Sturgeon "Short, Fat And Baldy Leading Man" was a big hit with the audience.

The writing of the amdram committee sketches was inspired.  The Production Committee, Tea Committee and Biscuit Committee sketches were a stand out, particularly as the script played outrageously with the amdramer's tendency to name their societies with contrived acronyms.

All in all, this was a very entertaining evening and well worth the £10 ticket price.  A few seats are still available for Saturday 23rd March.  Buy a ticket and start a great night out in Glasgow at 7pm ... just remember to wear your thermals!

Tickets from: http://glasgowcomedyfestival.com/shows/#!/shows/543

Punch Productions: http://www.punch-productions.com/index.html

Mar 13th

The 39 Steps - Theatre Royal, Glasgow (11 – 16 March 2013)

By Cameron Lowe

The 39 StepsThe 39 Steps is one of the cleverest and most entertaining productions on stage today.  A hilarious tribute to Hitchcock’s 1935 movie, this play is a must for any fan of classic spy thrillers or lampoon comedy.

 

John Buchan’s famous story follows Richard Hannay (Richard Ede) as he is caught up in a tale of pre WWII espionage and murder.  While he tries to unravel the mystery of ‘The 39 Steps’ he is constantly pursued by the police for a murder he did not commit.  He is reluctantly (at first) joined by Pamela (Charlotte Peters) as they try to track down the fiendish Professor (Tony Bell) who has orchestrated a plot to steal top secret military data.  The play is amazingly faithful to the Hitchcock movie incorporating the famous Forth Railway Bridge scene and an ambitious chase across the Scottish highlands.

 

“All well and good” you may say.  So what is so special about this production?  Well, for one thing all 30 characters on stage are played by 4 actors.  And quite convincingly so!  In fact, between them, Tony Bell and Gary MacKay play 26 characters with more costume changes than I could count.  It is difficult to pick a favourite from so many strong characters but Gary MacKay’s Crofter was a great reminder of James Finlayson (the ever present baddie in the Laurel & Hardy flicks) and had me in stitches.  Together these two created the chaotic situations to set our hero against.  Richard Ede was the perfect straight man to highlight their antics.  Charlotte Peters’s contribution should not be underestimated as her characterisation of the 2 ‘love interest’ females as well as the “ridiculously Scottish” Hotelier’s wife was flawless.

 

Richard Hannay flees the police

The script, staging and direction were equally intelligent and funny.  Sometimes the use of set and props would get as many laughs as the performances.  The entire ‘train to Scotland’ sequence was hilarious and watch out for the cameo appearance of Hitchcock himself during a remarkable biplane chase sequence!

 

This is a simply brilliant production with some truly first class touches.  It does for the Spy Thriller genre what Carl Reiner’s 1982 film “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and Larry Gelbart’s hilarious musical “City of Angels” did for Film Noir.  Five stars – no less.

 

The 39 Steps

Theatre Royal Glasgow

Mon 11 – Sat 16 Mar

Mon  - Sat eves @ 7.30

Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm

Tickets: £12.50-£27

 

Box Office: 0844 871 7647 (Bkg fee)

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (Bkg fee)