Review – Edinburgh Gang Show 2013

Nov 20 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Waves of fun

King’s Theatre
Tues 19 – Sat 23 November 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

Enthusiasm and good humour abound in the thoroughly successful 2013 Edinburgh Gang Show at the King’s all week. A huge cast demonstrate skill and versatility in comedy, singing and dancing throughout what is essentially an old-fashioned variety show.

Football-themed choreography in The Beautiful Game - Photo © Susan Scott and Michael G Walker

Football-themed choreography in The Beautiful Game – Photo © Susan Scott and Michael G Walker

At times director Andy Johnston, who is also responsible for most of the excellent original material, seems determined to give us the year’s first pantomime.

Despite stating, in a cruel dig at this year’s King’s offering, that Peter Pan “isn’t a real pantomime”, there is an extended sketch called Peter Pants which (like the rest of the show) features crosstalk, audience participation and cheesy jokes which work on more than one level. Add to that the girls versus boys singing contest, complete with actions and a songsheet which descends from on high, and it all adds up to something much closer to a traditional panto than many performances which claim that title.

It is all performed with skill and gusto, and if some of the jokes are a little predictable, this is offset by excellent topical and local references. These also spice up the rewritten musical numbers, notably in Dead Miserables which makes some cutting observations about modern Scotland. This theme is continued in several numbers; it is not surprising that Alex Salmond is the butt of humour, but what can the Scouting movement have against Andy and Judy Murray?

Imagination - Photo © Susan Scott and Michael G Walker

Imagination – Photo © Susan Scott and Michael G Walker

Any negative image of Scotland is soon offset by the finale, which features a number of songs including Dougie Maclean’s Caledonia and The Corries’ Scotland Will Flourish, accompanied by the unfurling of Saltires, which manages to be affecting without being mawkish (and, like the rest of the show, is scrupulously neutral on the subject of the referendum).

Throughout the show, John Duncan’s musical direction and Louise Williamson’s dance direction are first-rate.

There are obvious difficulties in deploying such large numbers of performers on stage at times, but there are notable successes in some football-themed choreography in The Beautiful Game, and in the performance of Seize The Day from Newsies, which is the evening’s dance highlight.

Jemma Crawford, who is credited as Junior Gang Director, deserves particular credit for Fun in Space, where songs from the cartoon Phineas and Ferb and S Club 7’s Reach are performed with such accuracy and infectious enthusiasm that it is perhaps the evening’s highlight.

Excellent displays of comic timing

The Junior Gang might be able to teach their senior equivalents something about enunciation, as there are occasions when lyrics are lost. At times, moreover, songs seem pitched a little high for the performers, who occasionally strain for notes.


The Junior Gand have Fun in Space – Photo © Susan Scott and Michael G Walker

However, the overall musical standard is extremely high. Michael Barker has a couple of notable solos, while Cameron Kilgore, Kathryn McLeod and Matt Hall shine in a swing-themed number. Lucy Cowie also provides a strong version of My House from Matilda.

The comedy sketches, while very fine, could benefit from having a couple of minutes shaved off here and there. The portrayal of an amateur dramatics dress rehearsal seems to be drawn from real-life frustration and may not mean quite so much to anyone who has not been in this situation, but is the vehicle for excellent displays of comic timing, all held together superbly by Kirsty Summers as the director Mrs Fountain-Park.

The Opening - Photo © Susan Scott and Michael G Walker

The Opening – Photo © Susan Scott and Michael G Walker

Similarly, the Peter Pan sketch outstays its welcome a little, but features notable performances. Cameron Currie, who has the unenviable task of starting the whole show with a solo introducing the Pixie Lott-derived opening number, is a tremendous Peter Pants, while Claire Denvir threatens to steal the show as Tinkerbell.

Michael Dennistoun also shows considerable comic talent in different roles, but overall there are far too many good performances to mention in a well-paced and thoroughly enjoyable show – even a couple of missed lighting cues could not put the performers off. What is most noteworthy is how much fun they all seem to be having, and more importantly, how well that enjoyment is conveyed to the audience.

While it is true to say that there are many young performers on show here with a great deal of potential, it would not be the whole story; it is not just a show with potential, it is one which is extremely enjoyable and highly recommended right now.

Running time 2 hrs 40 mins including interval
Run ends Saturday 23 November 2013
Evenings 7 pm, Matinee Sat 2.15 pm
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Tickets from:

The Finale - Photo © Susan Scott and Michael G Walker

The Finale – Photo © Susan Scott and Michael G Walker


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