Oor Wullie The Musical – King’s Theatre

Book & Lyrics: Scott Gilmour

Music: Claire McKenzie

Director: Andrew Panton

Being blunt, the concept of drawing on an eighty-year-old comic script – rife with slang, Dundonian heritage and is as quintessentially Scottish as Irn Bru chews and Haggis Pakora could leave a potential unpleasant taste in the mouth if done tacky. Capitalising on nostalgia is by no means a new fad, and Oor Wullie, aye that annual yer granny gets you which you never bothered to pick-up has been delighting kids, and big ones across Scotland for decades. It would also seem, that with the right knack, embracement and know-how, Oor Wullie is a fandabidozi musical.

Coherently nostalgic, yet modern, Claire McKenzie and Scott Gilmour craft a sentimental production which captures a thick vein of Scottish humour while pumping it full of enthusiastic energy, maintaining the comic’s origins, and ensuring a modern spirit of inclusion. Frankly, the coming months will be a trying period for us all, particularly those who may not ‘look’ Scottish enough, thankfully we can look to the past to hopefully lead our future.

Young Scot Wahid, whose parents originate from Pakistan, starts a new school in a country where he has always called home, even if fellow students seem confused about his origins. Finding solace in the library, under the watchful eye of the librarian Dudley, a touching reference to original animator Dudley D. Watkins, Oor Wullie lands himself in trouble again, emerging from the very annual Wahid finds solace in. No longer in Auchenshuggle, Wullie and the gang must adapt to this peculiar world. Through Kenneth Macleod’s vivid designs, directly out of the Sunday Post, emphasising the comic roots for the characters with layers upon layers of colour, effects and one very special Wullie Wagon.

Lifting the skirt of risqué, Oor Wullie capitalises on the countries passionate thirst for double entendres, in-jokes and having a belter of a time. None of the jokes feels harsh or targeted, levelling off as safe for the whole family. The entire cast achieves a brilliant sense of comic timing, particularly Dan Buckley’s Bob and Ann Louise Ross as the charmingly befuddled PC Murdoch. The cheeky chappy himself Martin Quidd tackles the role of Wullie, exaggerating to accentuate the comic-strip background. His chemistry with the entire gang is tangible, but with a touching reflection found in Eklovey Kashyap’s Walid offers a real sentimentality amidst the frolic and fun.

Course, it wouldnae be right to celebrate eighty years of Scotland’s favourite son without a little music, now would it? McKenzie’s musical composition carries Gilmour’s lyrics well, capturing the overall tone of the production. Though a mixed lot vocally, there’s a communal sense to the vocals rather than a polished feel, almost folky. Standout numbers offer a fleshed-out role for Leanne Tarynor’s brilliantly portrayed Basher Mackenzie, and what may at first raises eyebrows as the gang don saris, is a meticulously well-structured number, with taste, humour and delightful choreography courtesy of Chi-San Howard.

All across Scotland Oor Wullie could be found perched upon his pale from the cobbles of Edinburgh to the high streets of Dunfermline and was an expression of the astonishing artistic talents of over two-hundred designs. Now, here is the chance to meet the lad face-to-face, leaping from his two-dimensional form, with a breath of life befitting his cheeky demeanour.

Review originally for Reviewshub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/oor-wullie-the-musical-kings-theatre-edinburgh/

Photo Credit – Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Banff Mountain Film Festival – Festival Theatre

For many years now a Canadian treat has found itself a warm home in the centre of Edinburgh, as the Festival Theatre hosts the Banff Mountain Film Festival in the shadow of our very own Arthur’s Seat. An international film competition, originating back in 1976 from the Canadian town of Banff, Alberta, the Mountain Film Festival celebrates upwards of 300 films, whittling them down to a final competing set which tours globally.

Promoting two spectacular programmes, labelled Red & Blue, Banff Mountain Film Festival moves from a simple evening affair into an experience for the whole day/weekend. This evening, witnessing the Red programme first-hand it cannot be stressed how envious you feel knowing others in the theatre were smart enough to catch both programmes. An evening of accomplished filmmakers captures the mind-boggling intensity of human endurance, far-flung cultures, and on occasion, our compassion towards one another and the environment around us.

There’s little which can be gained in reviewing the films showcased at the event, as the quality of each is superb. What is striking, however, is the variety in which the audience find themselves sampling. If onlookers view this as an event purely for the climbers, extreme sports fanatics or hikers – you couldn’t be more mistaken. Banff has polished their festival into a welcoming environment, with brief, but efficient live interludes to introduce film segments and handle this evening’s most important aspect; giveaways.

Particular highlights which, in essence, capture the event’s atmosphere spectacularly are the found in Danny Day Care, Reel Rock: Up to Speed and a near feature-length tour edit of Sarah Outen’s four-year journey across the globe. A tremendous piece, not only as an example of the human condition but of time-lapse film making keeps the audience on tenterhooks for the entirety of the film. Other films provide a fount of knowledge, both for the accomplished enthusiast and those of us spooked by the heights – and on occasion, a whole heap of unexpected hilarity. 

It isn’t all about the big-budget however, select small-scale productions still invigorate a sense of adventure, containing the sort of fear-inducing stunts which would panic any mother. Celebrating dedication, Thabang offers an account of Thabang Madiba’s dedication and eventual pay-off, becoming the first black South African to represent the country in running. Touching, with multiple first-hand interviews, it’s an accomplished piece which opens our eyes to sporting legends and competitors we hadn’t known existed. 

Still, at the heart of it all there’s an element of business, but a tasteful display rather than corporate. Transforming the festival into a full-blown event, people taking inspiration from there films, or even just keen beginners can find merchandise for Banff themselves, and the occasional piece from other suppliers and sponsors of the events.

Whirring, it transforms the Festival Theatre in a peculiar way not traditionally associated by many of the traditional theatre crowd. An award-winning lineup, with an award-winning team of producers, runners, hosts and event staff – there’s little wonder why the Banff Mountain Film Festival draws in a diverse crowd of eager film watchers into Edinburgh, finding itself as an annual tradition awaiting discovery for many more.

Tickets for the Banff Mountain Film Festival can be found at: https://www.banff-uk.com/tickets

Banff Mountain Film Festival finishes it’s Scottish tour in Glasgow King’s Theatre on February 25th

Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) – Royal Lyceum Theatre

Written by Isobel McArthur after Jane Austen

Directed by Paul Brotherston

Ignore everything you may have thought you knew about Jane Austen’s literary classic Pride & Prejudice; Isobel McArthur is about to change your entire perception. It takes a vision to reinvigorate a text, especially one with as countless adaptations, stiffness and dust that Pride & Prejudice conjure to a general audience, but Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) brings a freshness to the crumpled pages.

Every story is made up of the background lives upon which is builds a foundation. Sometimes, these backdrop characters form mere scenery, other times the stories wouldn’t cope without them – as can you truly have romance without clean linen? McArthur’s loving retelling of the Bennet sisters lives, and their Mother’s resolution to secure their future is told by six women, all of whom are the cleaners, bedmaids and keepers of the family home. For who has a better impression of what is going on upstairs, but those downstairs?

Taking on the mantle of adapting Austen’s piece for comedy is a feat taken on by many, with few succeeding. Lizzie Bennet has found herself an online vlogger, fighting zombies and on more than one occasion, no longer human. To not only infuse rich, distinctly West Coast humour, with a bubbling blend of gutter sniping insults, a wit beyond measure but perform the roles of Mrs Bennet and Colin Firth Mr Darcy too, well no bloody wonder Isobel McArthur looks proud at the standing ovation the production deserved.

Bo-Jo has arrived, and this might be the one time the buffooning Etonesque ‘charm’ has appeal, and if that doesn’t sell Hannah Jarrett-Scott’s performance of Charles Bingley then evidently recognising brilliance is a difficulty of yours. Manifesting four distinctly unique characters, with a tremendous helping of hot air, Jarrett-Scott finds a balance in excessive physicality, but still retains an emotional connection; particularly with Charlotte Lucas. Far from alone, equality exists between the six women’s role, with Tori Burgess bringing as much effervescent energy as Jarret-Scott.

This good ole’-fashioned stance of feminist storytelling finds comfort in its resolute cast of talents, who are living for their respective parts. As evident as the parody may be, the care in Austen’s text is equally clear – Meghan Tyler, evokes a brassier Elizabeth Bennet, but no less human. If you had any wonder if the writer of Crocodile Fever’s performance capability could match her written, from the outset Tyler’s characterisation makes it unambiguous how nimble her skill is in producing a character and shaking the audience’s pockets for every last dribble of laughter.

And that’s precisely what this is; fun. A collect of gags and laughs, Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) is merriment at its hungover messy best. Finding a balance in larger than life chaos, with a ripple of dramatic integrity – there’s a delicate keel which tips in the smallest of ways. Pacing slackens towards the Act 1 climax, where a false ending of sorts crescendos in bombastic energy, to make way for a quick, narrative scene which drops momentum, even if it does close with a banging song choice. 

Thing is, what sort of party would this be without music? We’ve got finger foods, drama and wine – so surely the tunes must follow? A convoluted mixture of karaoke hits on shuffle, Michael John McCarthy’s legendary sound design and musical supervision achieve the lacing of pop classics with period literature without irking. It’s a release of sorts, the way only music can achieve; that just as the volatile nature of a scene grows, the only possible emotional release is to belt it all out – a task Christina Gordon’s Jane relishes.

If you’re having a peculiar sense of déjà vu, designer Ana Inés Jabares – Pita’s previous Lyceum production Twelfth Night seems to have been the benchmark for McArthur’s production. Paul Brotherston directs the space well, utilising the limitations of the venue, becoming remarkably inventive on occasion, enabling the six to showcase Emily Jane Boyle’s choreography, which sways from a movement-based to a more comical farce.

Now, despite what your English teacher may have once notified you; you’re allowed to dislike Pride & Prejudice or Austen. In particular, a fault not with the novel, but the exclusivity and absurd purity fans of the Period genre adhere to. In truth, the story is a paradigm of romantic comedy, a wonderful example of the genre and the disservice many adaptations do to the ‘image’ of Austen’s work. Isobel McArthur, on the other hand, has a canny ability to isolate an issue of class and place the servants in the storytellers armchair.

McArthur tears up the novel and lovingly binds the pages back together with chewing gum, plasters and a few choice vino stains. There is tremendous respect in the art of parody, even if they do pick apart the narrative issues, heavyhandedly highlighting how far (if at all) we have come from ‘antiquated’ beliefs. Invigorating a precious text, unafraid to let its mascara run while slapping on rose-tinted specs, and infusing it with plenty of craic; Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) is sort of marvellous

Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) runs at The Royal Lyceum Theatre until February 15th. Tickets are available from: https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/pride-and-prejudice-sort-of

Photography by Mihaela Bodlovic