Tag Archives: Karen Dunbar

REVIEW: Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

It’s into the insular world of the reclusive Ma and Pa that we eavesdrop in award-winning actor and playwright Martin McCormick’s Ma Pa and the Little Mouths. The play, presented as a rehearsed reading as part of last year’s Mayfesto, now returns fully-formed to The Tron.

Ma and Pa are isolated in their high rise flat. Literally blocked-off from the outside world. Pa’s weekly shopping trips the only contact with whatever’s out there. Their days spent passing the time telling each other ever-more absurd tales. Into this world falls Neil, a woman Pa finds hiding under a car in the street outside. They give her refuge, but in the act of opening that door, their lives and hers are changed inexorably.

In turn absurdist and surrealist, but always captivating, McCormick’s piece wears its influences on its sleeve, there are undoubted nods to Harold Pinter in pace and tone, and to a lesser extent to the output of Philip Ridley, though much more palatable, of wider appeal and a whole lot less in-your-face and absolutely of Eugène Iionesco, the master of portraying the insignificance of human existence. The non-linear narrative may prove challenging to some but there’s plenty of humour to delight, the language rich and the dialogue has a hypnotic rhythm of its own. The petty resentments of a long-term relationship, deftly written by McCormick, are delivered as pithy one-liners, and thrown at each other like perfectly formed weapons.

The much-loved comedy actor Karen Dunbar (Ma) is a local favourite and having already shown her acting chops playing Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days, at this very venue, the character of Ma, seems like a perfect fit. While she delivers the lion’s share of the laughs, there’s an air of barely hidden menace under the razor-sharp retorts. Dunbar is maturing into an actress of great depth. Veteran Scottish actor Gerry Mulgrew delivers a beautifully measured performance as Pa.

As the piece progresses, hints emerge as to the deeper tragedy that underlies this existence. At a compact 180 minutes, while challenging, McCormick’s work is always creative and utterly captivating.

Runs until 12 May 2018 at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow then at the Traverse, Edinburgh from 16-19 May 2018 | Image: John Johnston

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Aladdin – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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Originally written for http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Writer: Eric Potts

Director: Jimmy Chisholm

Musical Director: Ian Vince-Gatt

Choreographer: Joanne McShane

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

Crash, bang, wallop what a show, they don’t come any bigger than the full-on assault on the senses that is the annual King’s Theatre pantomime, which next year celebrates a 50 year unbroken run of festive shows. With a roster of Scottish acting and comedy talent and a storyline tailor-made for the Glasgow audience this is a year-on-year sell-out success and a long-held tradition with Glaswegian families. This year the story receiving the King’s treatment is Aladdin which, apart from some local in-jokes and the inevitable pop culture references for the tweenies, sticks to the traditional pantomime version of the story.

The success of any festive show is dependent on the strength of its actors and with a plot as holey as Widow Twankey’s capacious drawers; the casting of Scottish comedy icons Karen Dunbar (Mrs. McConkey/The Genie of the Ring), Des Clarke (Wishee Washee) and Gavin Mitchell (Abanazar) is inspired. The sublime comedy skills of the trio are the glue that binds the whole thing together. Dunbar, in particular is a star; a woman who merely needs to raise an eyebrow or flare a nostril to have an audience in stitches, that she is also in possession of a belter of a voice is a fabulous bonus. Mitchell is also in top form as evil baddie Abanazar; giving his best Tim Curry à la Rocky Horror voice and the best “Mwa ha ha” evil laugh you’ll hear in years. As the titular character Kieran Brown has little to do apart from a magic carpet riding rendition of Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher and Higher’ and a few bits of fluff, as has Jenny Douglas, under-used as Princess Jasmine. The pair are highly gifted performers both in possession of first class musical theatre voices but here we only get glimpses of the talent underneath. The sets and costumes too, are stars in themselves; no expense has been spared in their design and construction and they read supremely well on stage; the word stunning simply doesn’t do them justice.

This is everything a Christmas show should be, with plenty for both adults and kids alike: there’s sparkle and pizzazz, there’s music and dancing, sing-a-longs and slapstick and the highlights more than make up for the sometimes saggy plot. With Aladdin, the King’s upholds its long held position as the number one pantomime in Glasgow.

Runs until 12th January 2014