Running with the gang in Toronto

The cast of I Ran With The Gang: John McColl, Stephen Humpage, Alan Longmuir and Stephen Arthur. Picture: Susan Rostron
The cast of I Ran With The Gang: John McColl, Stephen Humpage, Alan Longmuir and Stephen Arthur. Picture: Susan Rostron
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AIR Canada Rouge fly direct to Toronto from Edinburgh in less than seven hours... with a strong tail wind. Discovered that last week, courtesy of the Fringe.

The biggest ‘arts’ fair on the planet has long boasted of being a doorway to the world, which is how the I Ran With The Gang company, including Alan Longmuir, the original Bay City Roller, came to be cruising at 37,000ft over the North Atlantic en route to Move Back, a Bay City Rollers Fan Event at which we were all to be guests of honour.

Not bad for a Fringe show written in five days and staged in 10 with the help of Edinburgh entrepreneur Billy Lowe.

That was in 2014, and less than three years later, fans from across Canada and North America were descending on the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, downtown Toronto to immerse themselves in the I Ran With The Gang experience.

The show, set to enjoy a third Fringe season at Le Monde Hotel, George Street, this August, tells the story of Alan Longmuir, a plumber from Edinburgh with a love of music that would take him around the world and back with his band, the Bay City Rollers.

A sell-out hit when it premiered, the reactions of audiences that first year reinforced my belief there was still love out there for the Capital’s 70s tartan pop sensations - their reunion gigs last year proved that was indeed the case.

In Canada, it quickly between apparent that love is global. Passionate about everything Rollers, it made for a nerve-wracking international premiere - with just one original cast member, two debuting actors and a couple of new songs... well, time would tell.

If emotions were running high backstage, it was nothing compared to front of house.

The spell the Rollers cast on a generation was brought home during a rehearsal at which one of the event organisers burst into tears as the play came to a close. At first I feared they’d hated it... until I noticed they were also smiling.

The same thing happened at the dress rehearsal, and again on the night, when tears flowed freely.

And that’s the real magic of live theatre, the Rollers and their musical legacy.

I Ran With The Gang rekindles emotions and memories of formative years, a time when adult troubles were still distant, although one attendee explained her tears came from another place; badly bullied as a teenager she confided it was her love of the Rollers that got her through some dark times.

“I’ve got my boy band back,” blubbed another.

When I first wrote the piece, the idea was to transport audiences back to a time when life was simpler, I had no idea of the emotional impact that would have and, of course, that is all to the credit of the Bay City Rollers and a young plumber from Edinburgh, who just wanted to make music.

I Ran With The Gang returns to Le Monde Hotel, 5-28 August, 0131-226 0000