Edinburgh Gang Show 2014

Nov 19 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  Well prepared

King’s Theatre: Tue 18 – Sat 22  Nov 2014

There is a rarely seen bite and zip to this year’s Edinburgh Gang Show which, while it overruns by some 20 minutes, never outstays its welcome.

This is a cast which has that audacious ability to simply open their throats and let their souls sing. Not everyone is in tune all the time, but if they carry on performing with this attitude, they soon will be.

Sheer joy and exuberance in Girl Party. Photo: Glenda Robertson

Sheer joy and exuberance in Girl Party. Photo: Glenda Robertson

If it is the sheer joy in performance that marks this out from the rest, there is still room for it to be hungry for excellence.

Take the opening number performed, as seems to have become traditional, by the whole cast in simple red and white outfits.

It’s a colour scheme which fits superbly with Everything is Awesome – the big number from the Lego Movie. Add some walking choreography from Louise Williamson which has the performers moving around like blocks of Lego, and it begins to get interesting.

But then Musical Director John Duncan proves that there is more than One Direction to go when you do a bright and breezy mash-up. As the group singing Awesome leave the stage, a new new one segues into the Undertones’ great hit, Teenage Kicks, and finally a third move it on to Blondie’s One Way or Another.

It’s when the three groups return to the stage together and the choruses of the three songs stack up, one on top of the other as a triple decker mash-up, that the real adventure in Duncan’s setting becomes clear. Forget the Comic Relief attempt – this is the real deal.

keep up the adventure

And so it goes. As the costumes get bigger and brighter, the numbers keep up the adventure. There’s a medley of numbers by Michael Jackson, with versions of Bad and Beat It from Michael Cantle which capture his haunting, Urban grittiness without trying to emulate his crisp dance moves, and culminates in a delicious Man in the Mirror.

wesome opening. Photo: Michael Walker

Awesome opening. Photo: Michael Walker

In the Snow Tales medley, Claire Denvir gets to Build a Snowman, there are a few more snowmen Walking In The Air and several sledges worth of of cute reindeer – thanks to the junior gang. The culmination is a solid version of Let It Go from Frozen, which Lucy Cowie delivers with a fine regard for its music rather than the rousing chorus – or even the YouTube pastiches.

Talking of great delivery, one of the standout pieces, musically, is the New York Story medley. Superbly nuanced and phrased vocals from Helen Hunter for New York State of Mind are followed by Falling Slowly from hit musical Once, in which Michael Barker and Joanna Lamb start off as a duet and are joined on stage, one by one, by a mini orchestra. It’s simple and it is effective.

Sean Hughes is another name to look out for in the future. He delivers a gritty and completely surprising version of a number called Hallelujah in the Modern World medley. Which includes what sounds like a full chorus version of the Jam’s mod punk anthem, This is the Modern World.

Between the big musical medleys, director Andy Johnston keeps the show grounded in its music-hall roots with a series of comedy routines which mix sketch-based comedy with comic songs – the latter often with rewritten words.

For once in a sketch show, these are delivered with proper attention to enunciation detail. The puns might be bad (although more often than not they aren’t), but they are not only local, but you can hear what they are.

If this is a result by anyone’s standards, it is in these sketches that the most obvious sacrifices could be made to bring the overall length of the evening down. At two and three-quarter hours before the encore, even with a 7pm start, the whole show goes on for too long.

recognition factor

With such huge casts – there are 85 Brownies on stage for their big centenary number Girl Party – it would be wrong to cut the larger numbers. Although there are a couple where the odd chorus wouldn’t be much missed.

That said, Johnston certainly knows his target audience. The Agency, about pushy mums trying to get their children on the stage, hits a real recognition factor – while the decrepit old drudge who breaks out into a tap routine has the youngest audience members laughing out loud in glee.

Therein lies the truth of the matter. This is a show staged by the Scouting movement, but it is one which is enjoyable for those who have no family ties to the show. The in-jokes are few and well nuanced while the rest of the laughs hit those targets we can all recognise, including one stand-out five-star performance from a Tunnock’s Teacake.

And to go back to that opening number. The continuation of the lyric to Everything is Awesome is “when you’re part of a team”. Okay, Andy Johnston updated that to “part of a gang”, but the sentiment remains. This gang is a team and everything it does – and everyone involved – is awesome.

Running time 2 hours 50 minutes (including interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Tuesday 18 – Saturday 22 November 2014
Evenings 7pm; Matinee Sat 2:15pm
Tickets from http://www.edtheatres.com/gangshow

Finale 2014. Photo Michael Walker

Finale 2014. Photo Michael Walker


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