Tag Archives: Joanne McGuiness

REVIEW: Peter Pan – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

It’s 50 years since the King’s Theatre launched its first family pantomime and almost a year ago to the day since it was announced that the 50th pantoversary show would be the never-before-seen Peter Pan. A host of panto favourites and TV talent were cast: Glasgow’s favourite panto villain Gavin Mitchell, riding high on the success of a record-breaking run at mega-arena The Hydro in the recently resurrected Still Game stage show would take the role of Captain Hook, Scottish TV stars Greg McHugh (Gary Tank Commander, Fresh Meat), Scott Fletcher (Gary Tank Commander, River City) would be Smee and Peter Pan and comedian and Capital Radio presenter Des Clarke, Starkey. Stakes were also set high when it was revealed that an expected 85000 tickets would be sold, a daunting fact that would also test the mettle of most actors.

So when Captain Hook’s ship found itself sailing into some stormy waters; panto favourite Mitchell had to withdraw from his pivotal role due to injury, only to be replaced by Luther‘s Warren Brown who then pulled out 24 hours before curtain up on opening night, it was going to take the most seasoned of veterans to step into the breach and onto the deck of the Jolly Roger at the eleventh hour. That veteran turned out to be Alex Bourne, an established West End actor, having starred as Buddy in the Buddy Holly Story, played six years as Khashoggi in We Will Rock You and Oliver Award nominated for his dual role as Fred Graham/Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate at Chichester Festival Theatre and the Old Vic.

It is testament to Bourne’s professionalism and talent that with a mere few days rehearsal we get a word perfect, classic pantomime villain. The only pity being, that having heard Bourne’s wonderful voice in previous roles, we don’t get to hear it here. He deserves applause for merely agreeing to take this on, that he does it so well deserves a standing ovation.

This is no radical re-boot of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale nor is it a slavishly faithful re-telling, rather its a local re-working that sticks fairly closely to the major plot lines of the story: the Darlings are asleep in their beds in Glasgow when Peter Pan comes to visit, taking them on the adventure of a lifetime to Neverland via Tiger Lily’s camp, Dead Man’s Rock and of course Captain Hook’s Jolly Roger.

As with almost all pantos, subtlety has gone out of the window, though not too far in this case; the script gets laughs in all the right places from the audience of all ages and manages to refrain from cheap innuendo to do so, the design is relatively tasteful and naturalistic rather than garish and tacky and the music is a mixed bag of relatively recent hits and familiar old classics.

However the amplification levels of the orchestra, who it must be said were absolutely top notch, seemed to be set to stun or should I say deafen – coming in somewhere between road drill and jumbo jet take off, rendering the vocals of Joanne McGuinness (Wendy) and Jenny Douglas (Tiger Lily) inaudible; both have proved to have strong vocals in other productions so maybe a better balance is called for.

The stand out star though is McHugh, who utilises his persona as the effete Gary Tank Commander to full effect. With a raise of an eyebrow or a deadpan aside he has the audience in tears. He has you wishing the scenes away when anyone else is on just to see what he comes up with next. McHugh is ably supported by fellow comedian Des Clarke who, in his third appearance in panto at the King’s, knows just how to wrap a Glasgow audience around his little finger. The ensemble and supporting cast too deliver solid performances throughout.

It all adds up to become classic, family friendly entertainment of the highest order.

Runs until Sun 11th January 2015

REVIEW: Glasgow Girls – Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 09.20.19First published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/glasgow-girls-citizens-theatre-glasgow/

Writer: David Greig

Composers: Cora Bissett, The Kielty Brothers, Patricia Panther & MC Soom T

Director: Cora Bissett

Glasgow 2005, and the city and its high rise blocks have become home to a diverse range of asylum seekers. Drumchapel High School has become the focus for the children of these asylum seekers, but it’s a world where night-time raids happen with alarming frequency and children arrive at school every day to find out whether another classmate has disappeared, never to be seen again.

Glasgow Girls explores the true story of seven teenage girls for whom the situation has become personal. Together with their neighbours and one inspiring teacher, the girls embark on a campaign to secure the return of their friend  Kosovan Roma Agnesa Murselaj, forcibly removed and detained after a nigh-time raid, and fight to change the UK Government’s policy on the detention of children of asylum seekers.

Returning triumphant to its spiritual home at the Citizens Theatre, two years after it’s debut, Glasgow Girlscouldn’t be more relevant in the year Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games and undertakes an historic vote in the Independence Referendum. It highlights the spirit of the Glaswegian people, their reaction to injustice and Glasgow’s protectiveness of those who choose to call the city home.

From dawn raids, deportation and detention, there is humour, hope and heart in this powerful, poignant, profound but utterly joyous and truly emotive piece of theatre. The subject matter is hard hitting for a musical and to its credit the book written by David Grieg, who’s last high profile work Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, continues to run in the West End, hasn’t shied away from portraying the less positive aspects of both the campaign and life in Glasgow, resisting both the urge to sugar coat the subject matter and descend into mawkish sentimentality. It also highlights the impotency of the Holyrood Government in the face of opposition from Westminster (it’s also the most eloquent advert for the YES campaign you’ll see or hear this year). Instead this is a bold, brave, blistering, beautiful joy to behold. The story is told with trademark Glaswegian humour which takes no prisoners and is consistently laugh out loud funny.

The music is as diverse as the girls it represents, there are modern musical theatre numbers with a Scottish twist by The Kielty Brothers and director/composer Cora Bissett, rap and urban tunes by Patricia Panther and MC Soom T. The spare but atmospheric set by Merle Hensel also compliments the story well: conjuring up the grey concrete of Glasgow’s high rise blocks perfectly.

The whole endeavour though, would not succeed as it does without the truly sensational cast. Each and every one is deserving of praise but special mention must go to the ‘grown ups’ Callum Cuthbertson as Mr. Girvan and Scottish theatrical legend Myra McFadyen as Noreen, both deliver perfectly judged performances: in turn, poignant, stirring, compelling and utterly hysterical.

Glasgow Girls has a sharp intelligent edge and is a perfect reflection of the big heart and community spirit of the city of its title, of female solidarity and of what we can all achieve if we put our hearts and minds together. Genuinely moving and inspiring. Utterly unmissable.

Runs until 8 March 2014

Photographic credit: Drew Farrell