Johnny McKnight’s Meet Me at the Knob is (very) loosely based on the antics of the now largely forgotten, but notorious at the time, Glasgow gang the White Hats. Many were Vaudeville performers, dancing by day at venues such as The Pavilion, The Panopticon and the infamous Glasgow Empire, and dragging up at night in the Broomielaw, to terrorise the closeted great and good of the Glasgow gay scene in the 1920s.
The knob of the title refers to the Nelson Monument on Glasgow Green, whose landscaping afforded some much-needed cover for the gang’s nefarious nocturnal naughtiness.
Taking place over one night in the hotel where the gang lure their prey, this is a Glasgow Peaky Blinders with tunes, and boy what tunes, the songs by Novasound (Scotland’s only female-run production studio) are bang up to date and chart-worthy. In the hands of Darren Brownlie, long-time collaborator of McKnight’s, the songs take on a greater meaning, his powerful but nuanced and poignant delivery literally gives you goose bumps.
Brownlie is undoubtedly the shining star, glittering and sparkling as he flits across the stage, spitting out acidic one-liners as the notorious gang leader William ‘Lovely Liz’ Haton. In support, Dylan Wood as Fanny is pitch-perfect and has a beautiful voice, and well-known face Tom Urie as the target of the gang, is less victim more arch villain.
McKnight’s writing is at times as light as a feather and as deep as the ocean – turning on a pin-edge in tone. It’s this masterful writing and Jemima Levick’s sure-footed direction that makes this fly by in the blink of an eye and leaves you begging for more. The standing ovation at the end is truly deserved.
This absolutely glittering gem of a show is a welcome addition to the queer history of Glasgow. It deserves a life well after this one-week run at Òran Mór.
Images: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan