Liam Rudden: Gary the giant-slayer is in command of pantoland
'Hiyu! Ah'm Garay!'Three words that brought roars of laughter at Glasgow's Armadillo the other night.
Gary Tank Commander, aka Edinburgh’s very own Greg McHugh, was in the house and on the stage, ready for another night of panto in a city where audiences are known for needing little encouragement to join in.
Not that he looked too worried. Gary’s got the audience banter down to a tee and can raise a laugh as easily with a look as he can a word; ‘Actuaally...” Funny bones, the man simply has funny bones.
For those unfamiliar with Midlothian’s most famous military hero, ‘Whaur huv ye bin!?!” as the camp, Cheesy Pasta-loving icon might say.
The naive Gary McLintoch was first unleashed on the Scottish public at The Stand Comedy Club, on York Place, when McHugh decided to try out at the weekly Red Raw beginners night.
It wasn’t long before he was spotted and picked up by Channel 4 before moving to the BBC where, following the 2008 Scottish BAFTA award-winning mockumentary Gary’s War, he landed his own series.
McHugh, who you might also recognise from Fresh Meat and The A Word, is currently starring in Jack And The Beanstalk at the Armadillo until 7 January.
It’s a high energy and hilarious affair in which he plays Jack Trot’s little brother, ‘Garay’, and is the archetypal second comic, keeping the laughs coming fast and furious with a gentle nudge here, a barbed quip there, as well as a nice under-played line in political satire.
It’s the second time the former St Thomas Aquinas pupil has appeared in a Glasgow panto - first was at the Kings in 2014 when he played Smee, in Peter Pan.
Apparently, they’d been trying to sign him up for a couple of years when he finally agreed. Any residual worry his character might have been too east coast for Glasgow sensitivities were soon dispelled.
Based on an effeminate guy McHugh heard berating a gang of yobs on the top deck of an Edinburgh bus, Gary Tank Commander, like Rikki Fulton and Stanley Baxter before him, transcends the Edinburgh / Glasgow divide.
At the SEC he’s joined on stage by a talented company who sing and dance their way through a two hour extravaganza. That cast includes another Edinburgh talent, musical theatre and West End star of the future Rachel Flynn as Princess Apricot, a role she last played here in 2016 opposite Stewart, Gray and Stott.
Also featured are variety duo The Dolls (Gayle Telfer Stevens and Louise McCarthy), who follow in the tradition of strong, funny, Scottish working class wumin’ like Dorothy Paul, Elaine C Smith and Jane McCarry. As the Trot Aunties they were rude and crude and clearly loved by the audience.
So when will we see ‘Garay’ doing a home panto, I wondered as we caught up for a post show drink. He answered... but due to the Official Secrets Act, he’d probably have to kill me if I told you.
Merry Christmas one and all!