Edinburgh Gang Show 2019

Nov 20 2019 | By More

★★★★☆  Feast of dance

King’s Theatre: Tue 19 – Sat 23 Nov 2019
Review by Thom Dibdin

The lungs and the legs of the over 100 main cast of the Edinburgh Gang Show are made to work overtime in this year’s show, at the King’s to Saturday, which is a veritable cornucopia of song and dance.

The comedy sketches are still there, ensuring the show remains true to its Variety roots while proving that ancient and modern can match up. But they are all but drowned out by the strength of the purely music-based numbers.

The Tue-Thurs Junior Gang in Celebration! Pic: Ryan Buchanan

The joy of the Gang Show under current director Andy Johnston has always been his ability to mesh the differing worlds of the Gang Show together – with MD Andrew Thomson adding contemporary tunes and dance director Louise Williams bursting through with modern references in her choreography.

This year, whether it is in the opening Celebration! – with the now traditional basic white and red costumes involving every single member of the Gangs, both Junior and Main – or the first half mash-ups of pop and show tunes, the dancing is right to the fore.

Indeed, the small troupe of main dancers are called into service so often – and in such a variety of genres of steps from tap to contemporary to ballet to jazz to ballroom – that you worry for their ability to sustain the show for its six dates.

Behind them, the choreography keeps the company moving across the stage in waves of bodies. Rather easier for the Junior Gang, it must be said, than the older lads of the Main Gang who sometimes appear a little crushed in the patterns of the ensemble routines.

nicely turned business

The meat of the show sets off with Wide Open Spaces, a front-of-curtain routine which starts out with a group of stetson-toting Western cow-girls singing that the West is wild and it’s women are wilder – then adds some nicely turned business with Ellie Tullis riding in on an inflatable horse to inflict George Ezra’s Shotgun on them.

A scene from Wide Open Spaces. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

It’s great fun, delivered with some elan and making light of the obligatory first-night sound issues. It is a fitting nod to the fact that Edinburgh was the first Gang Show to include Girl Guides besides Scouts in its casts, before segueing into a curtain-up, full-blown ho-down experience.

When Johnston does comedy, he does it very well, and adding Lewis Capaldi into the mix of expected suspects in the line-up of House of Wax is a great move.

Capaldi joins Nicola, William, Robert, Lorraine and Mary in the waxworks lineup – visited by a bunch of under-whelmed school kids. It leads to a pleasingly anarchic mash-up of politics and music with each vying to sing their favourite Scottish song. Of course Capaldi has to reign supreme and Mackenzie Woolard’s delivery of his Someone You Loved is spot on.


From then on, no matter the quality of the performances, the dynamic of the first half remains emphatically song-and-dance.

From the Junior Gang’s showpiece medley of kids show tunes West End Girls (and Boys!) through the love songs of Seasons – that includes a nice juxtaposition of Seasons of Love with Ava McCaffer and Cameron Armstrong duetting on Falling Slowly from Once – right up to the Queen-infused closer, Mr Fahrenheit.

The dance troupe to the fore in tap-infused Born to Boogie. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

That closer is a great thing in itself – illustrating the depth in singing quality on stage, from Lewis Boyd’s heartfelt Is This the World We Created?, Alice Bailey, Ellie Cochrane and Emma Clarkson providing a trio for Crazy Little Thing, Esme Prosser on Love of My Life and, with a wonderfully naive and pure tone to her voice, Katie Kistruck with I Was Born to Love You.

The one respite comes thanks to Alisa Maclean, who suffers the indignity of delivering Memory from Cats with a bevy of stage hands coming on to provide literal interpretations of the words. Great stuff.

somewhat stunning

Dance continues to infuse the second half, which taps out onto the stage with Born to Boogie. And just when you thought the quality of the first half singing wouldn’t be bettered, Tatiana Honeywell provides a somewhat stunning and individual interpretation of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

Into the home straight and Johnston gets back to the comedy with a trio of numbers that prove its value in adding texture and a framework to the show.

Tatiana Honeywell and dancers in Wanna Dance. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

Notably, Medieval Mayhem, a Knights of the Round Table sketch which draws down Monty Python and adds quips written by Gang Show founder Ralph Reader (that were already old when he wrote them), mixed in with Johnson’s contemporary political and local football-related laughs.

Not only is the material strong and its delivery often effortless, but it provides a great framework for solo numbers as Kelsey Main struts out into take on Speechless from Aladdin and Jessica Lyall delivers a solid Shine Like The Sun from 9 to 5 the Musical.

There’s a satisfying familiarity to the penultimate number, The Choir, featuring the Heuchter Teuchter singers going through the motions of Rennie and Farrer’s The Haggis Song – which of course has a sing-along chorus. And the words to call down from the wings. And (in sixty years of Gang Shows can this have ever been done before?) an audience singing competition. Oh yes, it is panto season.

If the sixtieth Edinburgh Gang Show could do with a bit more texture in its formatting, it lacks none of the quality in performance that it has come to be associated with in recent years. And when the sound issues are sorted, it will undoubtedly be riding along on the crest of a wave.

Running time: Two hrs and 35 mins (including one interval).
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven St, EH3 9LQ
Tuesday 19 – Saturday 23 November 2019
Evenings: 7pm, Mat Sat: 2.15pm.
Information and tickets: Book here.

Ava McCaffer and Cameron Armstrong with the company in Seasons. Pic: Ryan Buchanan


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Comments (5)

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  1. Pam main says:

    Kelsey you were amazing as the lady of the lake and your solo from Aladdin, I’m so proud of how much ur confidence has grow from your early years in to now, you were born to be on the stage honey love gran

  2. Linda says:

    Edinburgh gangshow was amazing best one so far!! I had tears in my eyes at one point. I would like to give a special mention to the 12 cowgirl because they were all smiling,loud,happy and great dancers!! Well done everyone!

  3. ian woolard says:

    I thought Mackenzie Woolard lewis Capaldi solo was wonderful and the whole sketch was very funny with Mackenzie stealing the show with his wonderful acting too, well done

  4. Annette Hughes says:

    Amazing show again this year, everyone has worked so hard to put on such a great show, loved the music and especially Tatiana Honeywell, loved her version of “I wanna dance with somebody” Fantastic hopefully i will be back next year X

  5. Laurine Dennis says:

    Lovely show , enjoyed every moment of it. The soloists Tatiana and Mathew were the highlight for me. The dance routines were incredible and man what energy from the performers. Keep up the good standard gang. See you next year.