Tag Archives: Kenny Miller

REVIEW: The Steamie – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

There’s a nostalgia for and great expectations of any production of Tony Roper’s Glasgow classic, The Steamie, and audiences can rest assured that this 30th anniversary production does the much-loved work complete justice.

Hogmanay, a Glasgow wash house. The race is on to get the laundry done before the midnight bells. As the 1940s give way to a new decade, the four women: Dolly (Libby McArthur), Mrs, Culfeathers (Mary McCusker), Margret (Carmen Pieraccini) and Doreen (Fiona Wood) chew the fat, share the details of their lives and provide much-needed support to one another as they reflect on their hard lives, their hopes and dreams, and their often, useless men.

Heralded for its reflection of real Glasgow women’s lives, the camaraderie between these women delivers as many laughs as tears, a more perfectly pitched piece of writing you would be hard to find. Roper is a master manipulator of your feelings: just as the sentimental tears roll down your cheeks, a killer comic line is delivered so precisely that your emotions are tugged in completely the opposite direction.

Fans will be glad to know the now legendary Galloway’s mince routine is still as hysterical as is always was, as are Dolly’s peat bath purge and the imaginary telephone conversation, iconic scenes that have a firm place in Scottish theatre goers hearts.

That a play about a public wash house, set in a time when a sense of community and neighbourliness still existed, a world that is beyond the ken of a vast portion of the audience, still has the ability to pack out a two week run in a theatre is testament to the quality of the writing. Roper’s expert grasp on the rhythms of his native tongue, make this play as sharp today as it has ever been. Nostalgic it may be, and Glaswegian to its very core, however, the themes of friendship, loneliness and of womanhood transcend the years.

The roles are perfectly cast, these women deliver a masterclass in acting (and singing) and Roper’s own direction ensures it remains tight and true to the original.

You will be hard-pressed to find a work that tugs at your heart strings and equally make your heart soar. A classic, and deservedly so, this 30th anniversary production is simply unmissable.

Runs until 4 November 2017 | Image: Douglas Robertson

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/the-steamie-kings-theatre-glasgow/

REVIEW: Blanche and Butch – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Robert Softley Gale’s Blanche and Butch is a thoughtful, provocative, gorgeous-to-look-at powerhouse of a production.

Inspired by Noel Greig’s dark and macabre 2006 play with songs, Heelz on Wheelz, this isn’t your quota filling diversity production, it is the poignant, thought-provoking, bitingly funny story of three men, that just happens to feature two wheelchair-bound drag queens.

It’s backstage in a hotel in Wigan and a somewhat down-at-heel (as ragged around the edges as its actors) production of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Blanche, Butch and Betty find out a West End (or nearly West End) producer is in the audience, cue bickering, back-stabbing and bitching. But underneath the brittle exterior and the brutal words, we gain an insight into the heart-breaking disappointments and astonishing back stories of three men who span the generations.

Softley Gale’s work challenges our assumptions about gender, sexuality and disability and is particularly thought-provoking in his affecting monologues. As the trio discuss in the play, there’s nothing more patronising or dispiriting than being judged as “very good…considering”. The sheer quality of Softley Gale’s writing allows us to see clearly past the wheels and through to the talent of the actors onstage.  As Butch’s T-shirt proclaims ‘PISS ON PITY’ – this is a perfectly formed and powerful piece of writing, that deserves to be seen by the widest audience.

Blanche and Butch is fully accessible with integrated BSL interpretation, surtitles and audio description. 

It can still be seen at:

Tuesday 10th October 2017@ 8.00pm: The Gaiety, Ayr

Wednesday 11th October 2017 @ 7.30pm: CatStrand, Castle Douglas

Friday 13th and Saturday 14th October 2017 @ 7.30pm: Summerhall, Edinburgh

REVIEW: The Snaw Queen – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.

The news that Johnny McKnight was back at the helm of the Tron panto for 2016 was met with almost universal relief. After a slight misstep last year, Scotland’s king of modern panto is back in Glasgow and The Snaw Queen marks a return to the top-class festive form that audiences have come to expect from the acclaimed Glasgow theatre.

While it may appear from the title that there’s some connection with the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the reality is an eye-wateringly colourful, glitter-strewn, often incoherent romp – and it’s none the worse for that. Kristine Cagney Kringle and her toy workshop are flat-out preparing for the festive season. However, there’s a magic mirror, that if broken will plunge Weegietown into a Christmas-less eternal winter. Poor sweet Rudolph succumbs to the evil magic of the mirror and transforms into the Snaw Queen (a Marilyn Monroe look-alike in an eye-popping, diamante-strewn, flesh coloured body suit). Kristine, Elvira the Elf and Olive (the other reindeer) embark on an, at times, psychedelic journey to obtain the magic ingredients needed to reverse the spell. Throw into the mix Elvis the Elf, a giant pink bunny, a monochrome My Fair Lady-inspired number set on Glasgow’s infamous underground, an hilarious ‘disco dolly smack down’ and theatrical in-jokes about the National Theatre of Scotland’s James Plays and Broadway blockbuster Hamilton, and you may well get the impression that this isn’t your average panto – you’d be correct.

McKnight is a master of treading the fine line between zany fun for the babes and naughty humour for the grown ups and while it’s mind-bendingly confusing at times, it’s also hysterically funny. The humour never lets up and the sheer energy of the cast drives the action along at a fair lick. Traditionalists will be happy to know that the obligatory sing-along, sweetie throwing and audience harassment are all here.

It may not be the biggest pantomime in town, either in terms of size or budget, but the Tron always punches far above its weight in terms of entertainment. If its kaleidoscopic colour and surreal storytelling you’re after, all with a social conscience thrown in and belly laughs from start to end – then this will be your bag. A riot for the senses and a welcome relief from this grey old world we live in.

Runs until 7 January 2017 | Image: John Johnston

REVIEW: A Steady Rain – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Despite the predictability of the script, Robert Jack and Andy Clark’s powerhouse performances elevate Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain above and beyond the average police drama.

Inspired by a real-life event in the story of US serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, Denny (Clark) and Joey (Jack), two Chicago cops and life-long friends, have to deal with the fall-out, both personally and professionally from a catastrophic misjudgement while on duty.

There’s a danger that the well-worn subject matter could easily descend into cliche, and its portrayal of a certain type of masculinity, now largely unpalatable, is often predictable, but you can’t help admire the sheer volume and denseness of dialogue and the believability with which Clark and Jack deliver it. Gripping and satisfying thanks largely to the skill of two highly talented actors.

REVIEW: Miracle on 34 Parnie Street – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at http://www.thepublicreviews.com/miracle-on-34-parnie-street-tron-theatre-glasgow/

There’s no denying Johnny McKnight’s theatrical credentials: writer of hits such as The Incredible Adventures of See Thru Sam and Wendy Hoose; director of Blithe Spirit for Perth Theatre and Carmen Redux for Scottish Opera; undisputed ‘King of Panto’ with hit after hit here at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, The Lyceum in Edinburgh and Stirling’s macrobert, to name a (very) few. This year McKnight asks us simply to believe, taking the much-loved 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street and reworking it for a Glasgow audience in Miracle on 34 Parnie Street.

Things are not quite going as smoothly as planned at Glasgow’s favourite department store T.J. Confuse: Santa has turned up to work in the grotto but to everyone’s surprise Santa isn’t a he, but a she (with a platinum beehive to rival the late Amy Winehouse). To add to the mayhem, Kristine Cagney Kringle, gloriously played by McKnight himself, is claiming to be the real deal, but the sceptics just won’t believe and Kristine finds herself in court and on a mission to restore to the masses, the real meaning of Christmas.

It’s camp, it’s kitsch and punctuated throughout by original songs from Ross Brown which range from traditional panto sing a-long to pop and R&B and it’s all dressed up in eye-popping designs from Kenny Miller.

The cast of six work their socks off, actor/choreographer Darren Brownlie particularly impresses as the up-tight, commercially focussed store manager Mr. Bellhammer as does the ever reliable Julie Wilson Nimmo in multiple roles, Michelle Chantelle Hopewell as Chantelle possesses a stunning R&B powerhouse singing voice but does less well when delivering her lines, her accent obscuring much of her dialogue. But there was never going to be any doubt who was going to be the star here: McKnight (clad in what can only be described as a Kim Kardashian/Maria Carey mash-up) has the most finely tuned comic timing and razor-sharp wit you will find on any stage anywhere. That he genuinely seems to love what he’s doing is a delight to watch.

Writer/director/star McKnight has his finger firmly on the pulse of panto, perfectly pitching each show to its target audience and this is no exception, you would be hard pressed to find a greater number of local references than this, even the title references the theatres address. The storyline is cleverly multilayered and speaks volumes about crass commercialism and of sexism – hell, this is a more stirring, rallying cry for feminism than any you could wish for. It is peppered with witty one-liners (and more than the average share of ad-libs as McKnight picks on the audience and his fellow actors foibles to hysterical effect), however, as much as this theatre is known for its more cerebral Christmas content, the line: “that’s too meta, even for The Tron” gives you some idea of the usual audience, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it maybe goes a little too over the heads of the typical tiny panto-goer, save for the fart jokes of course. That said, they were a-whooping and a-hollering at the musical numbers and booing and hissing in all the right places.

If it’s something different than the usual run of the mill fairytale with chart hits shoe-horned in that you’re looking for, then look no further than Parnie Street – head on down to the Tron and just…believe!

Runs until 4 January 2015

REVIEW: Aganeza Scrooge – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

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This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Writer and Director: Johnny McKnight

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

There’s much speculation every year at the Tron Theatre as to whether this year’s production will top the last. The annual panto is never your traditional fare: refreshingly celebrity-free with no lazy pop tunes or reliance on worn out slapstick, instead it delivers ground-breaking originality and innovation year on year.

And the pressure to deliver is great, writer-director Johnny McKnight has big shoes to fill in this Glasgow theatre, following as he does in the footsteps of writers such as: Peter Capaldi, Craig Ferguson and Forbes Masson and in Aganeza Scrooge, boy does he deliver, with non-stop laughs and a finger firmly on the pulse of his audience.

In a storyline that might just sound familiar: Christmas is in full swing, everywhere that is, except Dickensian Street, home to legendary miser and money-lender Aganeza Scrooge, “the scariest skinflint in the pantosphere”. Aganeza is, of course, visited by three legendary ghosts, those of Pantos past, present and future, in order to show her the error of her ways. This all-female take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol stays loyal to the oft-told tale but with razor sharp wit, perfect pace, a genius eye for local detail and a cast bursting at the seams with talent. It truly is a celebration of Glasgow at its best and for all its cleverness it manages to retain a genuine warmth and charm.

The cast of six show astonishing versatility, seamlessly switching between multiple characters: a Liverpudlian ghost; Wee Jimmy Krankie; Tiny, or rather Whiny Tim; 80s disco diva Frizziwig; a Sally Bowles-like Ghost of Panto Future and Cockney Bobby (S) Cratchitt, to name just a few. McKnight himself stars as the title character and his pitch perfect delivery never falters throughout: firing out line after line of dialogue that will have you laughing out loud and tears rolling from your cheeks from the first scene to the last.

The writing is sublime but credit must also go to the music from composer Ross Brown which ranges from Les Mis-like musical theatre, Disney-esque show stopper to slinky cabaret and to the simple but highly effective set and costume designs of Kenny Miller.

This is executed with such energy and originality that even the most panto-phobic among you won’t fail to be won over. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket if you can.

Runs until 5 January