Review: The Broons - Maggie’s Wedding

The Broons at The King's Pic: Contributed
The Broons at The King's Pic: Contributed
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“FOR these are my mountains, and this is my glen...” croons a voice as the audience settle down to watch Scotland’s most famous family brought to life on stage for the first time in 80 years.

King’s Theatre, Leven Street

* * *

It sets the scene for the next two hours 35 minutes, and what turns out to be a nostagic tartan/shortbread celebration of all things Scottish.

The hand drawn faces of The Broons - Maw, Paw, Hen, Joe, Daphne, Maggie, Horace, The Twins, The Bairn and Granpaw - familiar to generations, frame the stage.

And just in case the name of Scotland’s best loved family has escaped you somehow, it is writ large, in red letters, on the stage.

Letters which double as a set, transforming into everything from keyboards, to beds, to a car, as life is breathed into the comic strip creations by a cast of well kent faces, some who manage to capture the essence of their 2D counterparts better than others.

The story, what there is of it, is simple: Maggie’s getting married. Joe’s off to London to be a boxer. Hen’s plans to backpack across Australia, and Horace is signing up for a trip to Mars.

Maw, however, has other ideas. She intends to keep her brood together.

Of course, bringing such iconic characters to life is really an impossible task.

For eight decades, fans have let their imaginations run riot, hearing their voices, seeing their smiles, making them real in their imaginations.

That said, The Bairn, played with just a hint of the ‘Jimmy Krankie’s’ by Maureen Carr, is inspired casting.

Her double act with the always watchable Kern Falconer as Granpaw is a splendid turn - Falconer’s canny pensioner, laugh out loud funny.

Lanky Hen, played with a Basil Fawlty-esque physicality by Tyler Collins, also works well for laughs, while John Kielty’s blokey Joe proves to be one of the more musical members of the clan.

Yes, this is a family who spontaneously burst into song at every given opportunity, stretching the running time of the show 20 minutes beyond where it needs to be.

Elsewhere, the twins, played with high-pitched abandon by Duncan Brown and Kevin Lennon are received well, as are Daphne, a wonderfully boisterous performance from Laura Szalecki, and Maggie, played straight for the most part by Kim Allan.

Most double up successfully too, playing other roles as required. But the problem lies with Maw and Paw.

Though lovable, Joyce Falconer’s Maw is interfering and abrasive, while Paul Riley’s paw is ineffectual.

Much of the problem lies in the writing.

A couthy, predictable script boasts some gags that are arguably older than The Broons themselves.

As for the ‘soundtrack’, the inclusion of such corny set pieces as Roamin’ In The Gloamin’, The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles, Bay City Rollers’ Shang-a-lang, and a truly cringe worthy sing along of Ali Bali, Ali Bali Bee, smack of missed opportunities - it’s all been done before in pantoland, and done better.

Saying that, when Euan Bennet, as Horace, sings things look up. He has a cracking voice.

Still, the whole evening has the feel of a rough and ready town hall gang show rather than a touring theatrical production.

A madcap shambles that never quite trusts itself to be mad enough and looses momentum in the second act as it deteriorates into a parody of a River City story line, as Maw and Paw’s marriage (briefly) looks threatened.

Nevertheless, if you like your nostalgia with a maudlin streak and a healthy dose of mawkishness, you may just love The Broons, as many of the opening night audience did.

For me, Scottish theatre has moved on and some things are perhaps best left on the page, not the stage, and in the imagination.

Run ends Saturday