We started December in the unloved backwater of London's West End to see the brilliant new cast of The Strange Incident of the Dog in The Nighttime
, the strange incident being the dog got brutally murdered by a manipulative, psychotic male character who the script bizarrely builds sympathy for - who hasn't killed a defenceless animal when a woman stops dating them? But if you ignore the Dodgy Pov (plus the swearing - there was a lot of audience muttering about the swearing) then it's a feast of sound, movement and poignant emotion.
was at BBC Scotland's Pacific Quay to talk about her career and we were in the audience. "I think ultimately women have to make a personal decision to put themselves out there. Keep knocking on doors. To be louder than men, and push more than men. I don't know if that's part of the issue that women seem less inclined to be seen to be pushing. You've got to be prepared to make an arse of yourself and be difficult. You have to refuse to be ignored. If you believe in your talent, if you believe you've got something important to say...just keep knocking on doors. Keep pushing scripts down people's throats. Keep standing there until they read them."
Our first panto of the season was the 'alternative' Mammy Goose
at The Tron. We were a tiny bit meh about it, expecting a rambling plot, the same 6 actors, hit and miss satire, but we were wrong. It has brilliant patter, characters you care about, some fabulous little digs at showbiz and Glasgow, a huge heart, and most importantly it successfully creates a show that works on the two levels a family Christmas show needs to work on - both the tiny kids and the grown adults enjoyed it.
There was unexpected drama at Bearsden Choir's
50th Birthday Bash at Glasgow City Halls, the soprano hit the deck towards the end of the first act of their beautiful rendition of Handel's Messiah. She recovered in time for a standing ovation at the curtain call, and what we lost in singing, we gained in gossip.
We were enthused by Mammy Goose, so we thought we'd head off to the famous Glasgow King's panto to see Elaine C. Smith and someone from Gary Tank Commander in Aladdin
. We were in the Gallery, a hellscape left over from the 1970s, that creates the perfect atmosphere for a show that starts with a song about Old Peking, moves through puns, tongue twisters, slapstick, The Floss, a send-up of Riverdance, Pink-lit Romance and Green-lit Villainy, and ends with a Beyonce impression, a big fight and a wedding. We loved it! Oh, no you didn't... oh, yes,we...
With 'Hiya pals' still ringing in our ears we went to see Govanhill Theatre's
last show at Govanhill Baths (for 2 years while they refurbish), Baba Yaga. It was a sell-out fairytale with a stylish, immersive, set. It had a slightly confusing habit of waiting until a scene was over before giving the audience the information they needed to understand the action, but its wit, drive and witchyness more than made up for it.
For the past two years The Theatre Royal has had a Big Musical That Appeals To Hen Nights on instead of something more Christmassy like a ballet. This year it was The Bodyguard
, the tale of a Sexy Assassin stalking a Huge Pop Star while an Older Sexy Man tries to stop him. The plot's ok, the dialogue is dire, the actor's are good, the tunes are great when the person next to you isn't singing them, the direction works a lot harder than the show deserves and there are some lovely moments, but when the drunk woman in the Gallery yelled 'shoot me'
at the Sexy Assassin, we half wished he'd get to us first.
After the pyrotechnics of The Bodyguard it was lovely to go the quiet, charm of Waiting For Gabriel, a new play by Running Late Theatre Company
at East Kilbride Arts Centre. Four angels up for a new job in heaven swap stories that examine their celestial role in our mortal lives, with jokes, songs, and the joyful-sorrowful compassion that strikes right at the heart of Christmastime.
Our last two shows, Wendy and Peter Pan
at Edinburgh's Lyceum and A Christmas Carol
by The Citizen's Theatre at The Tramway (they're refurbishing too) in Glasgow, were similar in a lot of ways. They were both Real Plays With Subtext and Character Development that grafted on a few bits of panto business to pass themselves off as Something Little Kids Might Like Because Money. The little kids might have been reduced to asking their mothers what a 'radge' was but the rest of us had a lot to enjoy - glitter, moonlight, songs, jokes, pirates, ghosts. Wendy fatally wounded its magic by Spelling Out Its Theme of Grief and Aging as if the script was scared to abandon itself to whatever Freudian Horrors might be lurking at the core of Neverland, but A Christmas Carol had no such worries, it threw itself headlong into a swirl of winter, Christmas, and redemption, leaving us with the image of an old man marvelling at the miracle that's overwhelmed his crabbit soul.