Theatre review: Edinburgh Gang Show, King’s Theatre

The young performers in The Gang Show have genuine commitment
The young performers in The Gang Show have genuine commitment
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IT’S difficult to find a fair way to grade children’s theatre. Up against touring musicals produced by Cameron Macintosh and concerts by Adele, often kids have neither the training nor directorial framing they need to shine, let alone the ability to control nerves.

Edinburgh Gang Show

King’s Theatre

* * * *

With an average age of 13, The Gang Show is a prime example of this dilemma. Many of the performers don’t have the best comic timing, acting, vocal or dance ability. There are missed cues, the set’s on the bargain side of budget and not every word is caught by the microphone.

What they do have, that a number of stellar performers are lacking, is commitment to their performances, enthusiasm and genuine warmth.

Many of the performers have been in the cast for several years and their theatrical development over that time is startlingly good. The older members of the team being obviously well versed in performance arts.

Director Andy Johnston has a number of tricks up his sleeve to manage large numbers of people on stage, but his real skill lies in creating set pieces with smaller groups.

The Gang’s renditions of scenes from musicals were particularly well created, a Blood Brothers medley verged on electric and When I Grow Up from Matilda had a beguiling wistfulness. There were moments that showcased young singers, dancers and actors for their specific gifts, including a beautiful performance of Adele’s Someone Like You and a scene-stealing turn from Hamlet’s dad.

In tandem with Calder Sibbald, Johnston has also created some striking lighting designs that add enticingly to the drama on stage. If only the same could be said of the jokes, the poor boards of the King’s groaning to the first of this season’s Grant Stott bus jokes and a skit in a doctor’s surgery, with possibly the most accurate depiction of a waiting room receptionist ever to grace the stage.

Alex Salmond, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Zoo’s new pandas were all targets of The Gang’s dubious sense of humour, receiving good natured laughs from the audience.

Run ends November 24