Æ Review – Edinburgh Gang Show 2010

November 24, 2010 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩     Strong core

King’s Theatre: Tue 23 – Sat 27 Nov 2010
By Thom Dibdin

Edinburgh’s guides, scouts, brownies and cubs step up to the mark at the King’s theatre this week, for a Gang Show which takes one step beyond the shadow of last year’s fiftieth birthday to create some numbers which will become classics in their own rights.

It’s Gonna Be A Good Night! the opening number promises. The tenacity and skill of the performers ensured that it is.

2010 Opening Number. Photo: Scott Parker

2010 Opening Number. Photo: Scott Parker

To be honest, they needed all the skill at their disposal on opening night. Problems with the microphones became apparent as the very first note was sung, leaving the back-room staff playing catch-up and those on stage with little clue as to what their audience could hear.

Indeed, such was the unfortunate nature of the problem that the two young lads who had stepped up to entertain as lead-singers in an early medley of Robbie Williams numbers, Let Us Entertain You, could obviously not even hear themselves. Which true Take That fans will no doubt say serves director Andy Johnston right for giving stage time to songs made famous by the traitorous Williams.

Elsewhere, Johnston’s song choices are excellent. New York Story gives a trio of very strong young female singers the chance to front a medley of Big Apple songs from Alicia Keys, Paloma Faith and the Pet Shop Boys. All tricky songs to get right, and Alicia Keys’ New York is a particular treat – while the rest of the Gang are creating some evocative scenes behind, thanks to choreographer Louise Williamson.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! has the younger members of the gang stepping out to a medley of early Beatles hits, keeping them fresh if not always as precise with their choreography as their dance coach would like. While the first half-closer, One Step Beyond has the older members of the Gang in all sorts of irreverent attire in a medley based around Madness’ Our House.

Johnson’s big move is not so much in the song choices, however, but in the new writing which peppers the production.

drop their verbal doings

An early number that pours scorn on local and national politicians, chucks lumps at both the Hearts and the Hibs, and mocks the latest local disaster has become something of a tradition for him.

This year is no exception with A Birds’ Eye View seeing a sextet of pigeon’s ascending to a great height to drop their verbal doings upon the great and the good. It’s sad that the trams project is still the object of much of the approbation – but there again, its the trams project which deserves it.

Scottish Lass. Photo: Scott Parker

Scottish Lass. Photo: Scott Parker

A nicely involved number called Scottish Class sees an assembly of ghostly Scottish figures meeting to save Scotland from the English cuts. With John Knox in charge, Robert the Bruce wittering on about spiders – and telling Mary Queen of Scots to “mind the heid”! a blue-faced William Wallace stirring it all up and a gaunt Rabbie Burns havering on at the drop of a noun, this is great fun.

Not only that, but it was delivered with style – to such a standard that you forget that this is an amateur show. This group – there are a few show-stopping extra roles including a raucous Lulu and an outrageous King Charles – show the makings of a strong core to help take the Gang forward in future years. Something which is not always in evidence through the whole show.

The sketch moves quite naturally into a number called Scottish Lass, which takes Madonna Songs resets them in a lilting, Scottish Country Dancing format. It’s a great idea which works well. Particularly with the newly written raps for Vogue.

Long time Gang Show watchers will be sad to hear of the demise of Stella and Joyce, the elderly ladies dragged up in Morningside. Unfortunately they didn’t survive their recent charity parachute jump – and The Pearly Gates sketch sees them trying to get to heaven. Complete with the obligatory nod to the critics and knowing, music hall patter to the backstage crew.

They will be missed, but there are more youngsters coming along to fill their shoes – large as they are.

It has been a busy year for the Gang Show, with the summer’s production of Billy Elliot a big hit. Of course a couple of numbers from that make their way into the show, while Johnston ensures that Christmas comes early with some of the worst puns imaginable and convoluted rhymes in pantomime sketch Jack & The Beanstalk.

Fittingly for the year which sees Guiding mark its centenary, Edinburgh Gang Show 2010 has a larger role for the Guides and Brownies than in recent years. It is a great show too, those microphone glitches aside – and yes, the assembled gang ensure the singing goes right up to the rafters.

Run continues to Saturday

Gang Show Website

ENDS

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