Still Game creators to limit live shows to avoid becoming ‘panto’

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Still Game fans have been promised a bigger and better stage spectacular when Jack and Victor return to the Hydro - but have been warned it will not become an annual fixture to avoid being seen as a pantomime.

Greg Hemphill said he and Ford Kiernan saw themselves as “Barnum & Bailey” in trying to outdo the 2014 show which sold out 21 performances at the Glasgow arena.

The pair revealed they have spent two months planning a “unique theatrical experience” for the sitcom’s army of fans who are expected to fill the Hydro for 15 performances in February.

But they also revealed they would be banning cameras from the new show, Bon Voyage, after being unhappy with how the previous production looked on screen.

And they say they are not keen on staging a live show every year to avoid it being seen as a regular occurrence like a panto or X Factor.

However they disclosed that they have already started discussing storylines for an eighth series of Still Game, which started life on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1997.

The two stars, who also pen the scripts for Still Game, revealed they were already planning a new live show when the BBC comeback was confirmed.

They have vowed to keep the plot of the new show and its special effects firmly under wraps to avoid spoiling surprises for the fans, like the all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood finale from the first Hydro show.

Hemphill said: “One of things we’ve learned is that they’re such different animals. The live show is a completely different experience from watching the TV series. It’s a much more involved experience for the audience.

• READ MORE: Still Game returns to BBC with record audience

“It’s a big space in the Hydro and it takes a lot of imagination to fill it. It’s not enough to say ‘let’s just do the Craiglang world on the stage.’

“We’re getting to do something we can’t do on the TV with the live show. We want to do something that’s on a large scale. It is going to be a uniquely theatrical experience.

“It’s not going to be Jack and Victor and the rest of the cast huddled around a three-bar fire. We feel like we’re Barnum and Bailey going into a space that size.”

Kiernan said: “The last show was a reunion, this new one is a proper entertainment night out that we think is better. In fact we’re sure it is better.

“You can get away things on stage that a die-hard fan would just not put up with on TV. When you’re writing the show you’re aiming high. You think you can technically do something until someone marches in and says: ‘Are you guys kidding? That cannae happen.’

“There is a different thing going on this time as we filmed it the last show. It went out on the BBC and we sold it as a DVD. We weren’t happy with it. We looked at it and went: ‘It’s not the same as being there. If people want to see this should as they’re not going to see it otherwise.

“That space in the Hydro has changed Glasgow in the last couple of years. Every time a show empties 10,000 people spill out into the street, it’s terrific.”

The original Still Game live show broke all box office records at the Hydro and extra shows have already been added to next year’s run. However, despite their enthusiasm about the prospect of another BBC Scotland series, Kiernan and Hemphill say they want to limit Jack and Victor’s live outings in future.

Kiernan said: “I wouldn’t think we would do a show at the Hydro every year. It will be nearly three years by the time we do this show. It’s not the kind of thing you do every year or every couple of years.

“You’ve got to have the story. You can’t just pop them out. It’s a different machine altogether, the yearly thing. You’re going into the realms of returning pantomimes and stuff like that. It’s too formulaic.

“The story is everything for us. It needs to be right or we would not venture back.”

Hemphill added: “It’s got to be like an event and you want to make sure there’s a story idea to fill that space. But we don’t want it to become like the X Factor, where it is on every year.”

The first episode of Still Game’s TV comeback in October attracted 1.3 million viewers - 58 per cent of the available Scottish audience - and was the most popular programme north of the border since Andy Murray won Wimbledon in July.

Kiernan said the pair had “three or four” plot ideas sketched out for a new series of Still Game, but had yet to get the green light from the BBC to start writing scripts.

Hemphill said: “The BBC have been really supportive of the show. We’ve never know anything like it in terms of the way they’ve pushed it, so we’re confident we’ll get the chance to do it again.”