First look: New Oor Wullie stage musical opens at Dundee Rep ahead of Scottish tour

The iconic Scottish comic strip character Oor Wullie and his pals have been turned into a brand new stage musical.

Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 2:01 pm
Leanne Traynor, Martin Quinn and Eklovey Kashyap play Basher McKenzie, Oor Wullie and Wahid in the new musical.

Fat Boab, Soapy Soatar, Wee Eck and PC Murdoch are joining the spiky-haired hero on a crusade to reunite him with his missing bucket at Dundee Rep over the festive season.

Its new show, which will tour Scotland next year, brings the comic strip up to date by tackling issues of female empowerment and racial diversity.

Its star, Martin Quinn, and the musical's creators say it will see Wullie and his plans learn new lessons about "accepting difference" and "what it means to be Scottish" in modern-day Scotland in 2019.

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A brand new character, Wahid, who helps Wullie in his mission, is played by Indian-born actor Eklovey Kashyap, while the legendary first illustrator of the comic strip, Dudley D Watkins, has inspired the character of a school librarian.

Partly set in the fictional town of Auchenshoogle, where the comic strip stories unfold, the musical features a "reimagined" female incarnation of school bully Basher McKenzie, a promiment role for Primrose Patterson, Wullie's long-time love interest in the comic strip, and a female actor, Annie Louise Ross, stepping into the shoes of PC Murdoch.

The show has been created to mark the 80th birthday of Oor Wullie and Dundee Rep, which was also behind the stage musical based on the songs of The Proclaimers.

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The new Oor Wullie musical is at Dundee Rep until 5 January.

Director Andrew Panton, Dundee Rep's artistic director, said: “As with a lot of things that have been around for a long time, Our Wullie has been very male-orientated.

"We’re in a different time now and have different thoughts about representation on stage.

"For many people in our audience it will be the only thing they see for 12 months and for some it might be the first thing they’ve ever seen in a theatre.

"It’s really important that they can see themselves on stage. That’s something we’re always keen to do, but particularly at this time of year when we’ve got a much broader audience.

Oor Wullie (Martin Quinn) meets a new friend, Wahid (Eklovey Kashyap), in the stage show.

“It’s a real action-packed adventure and is a lot of fun, but it’s also got a lot of heart. There’s some real thoughtfulness about what home and where we come from really means, about having a sense of belonging and being part of a community, and about what it means to be Scottish.

"These are ever-changing subjective phrases which we need to interrogate frequently. Scotland is a very different country than when Oor Wullie was first around.”

Paisley-born Quinn, a star of previous Dundee Rep shows Let The Right One In and Passing Palaces, said: "I think the messages of the show will be clear regardless of whether people are familiar with the books or not.

Leanne Traynor plays the "reimagined" comic strip bully Basher McKenzie in the musical.

“To me it is about accepting difference and people coming together. There are messages about being accepting of everybody in Scotland and be as inclusive as we possibly can be.

“There are some great scenes about how, for all say how great it is to be Scottish and that we are so welcoming and accepting in Scotland, we are not maybe quite as accepting as we think we are.”

Panton said he hoped that the on-stage incarnation of Oor Wullie would be true to the comic strip character "that people know and love."

He added: "It’s a brilliant challenge and also a massive responsibility. No-one has ever heard what Oor Wullie actually speaks like and no-one is aware of the physical world or musical world of Oor Wullie. A lot of the challenges have been about how to realise Auchenshoogle and all the characters on stage.

"He’s mischievous, he’s prone to getting into scrapes, he’s lovable and his gang absolutely adore him and are completely faithful to him, even though he doesn’t always have the best ideas. He gets them into certain problems but he gets them out of them. He’s a very loyal friend."

Quinn added: "Wullie sees himself as the leader of his gang but he wants wants to look out for them all. He is caring in that sense.

The full cast of Dundee Rep's Christmas show, Oor Wullie, which will tour Scotland in 2020.

"Wullie is mischievous, he suffers from a lack of concentration and he also throws himself into things.

"He thinks he is the smartest, the strongest and the fastest. But as soon as he loses his bucket he panics and doesn’t know what to do with himself."

Oor Wullie is at Dundee Rep until 5 January and will then tour to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Ayr, Inverness, Stirling, Aberdeen, Kirkcaldy and Greenock.

Annie Louise Ross has a starring role as PC Murdoch.