JOYCE MCMILLAN on DEMONS at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 23.10.12
3 stars ***
WITH NO fewer than thirteen writers involved, this new political cabaret at Oran Mor looks a bit like a show designed by a committee. It was put together by the same team who created the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Show earlier this year, as the 250th play in David MacLennan’s remarkable Play, Pie and Pint series; this time around, though, the show is less well focussed around a single theme.
So it begins as its name suggests, with a briliant song about how the forces of reaction stay in power by inviting us to blame one another, rather than them. With the help of a stuffed scapegoat, a pitchfork, and a little red pair of horns, the five performers – led by Wildcat veterans David Anderson and George Drennan, with Kirstin McLean, Cat Grozier and Brian James – demonstrate how we are invited to demonise first women, then strangers and the poor – the “peely-wally gie’s-a-swally” underclass. In no time, though, the show veers off into a different and less sure-footed strand, in which McLean and James, as Marx and Engels, put on Groucho faces, and offer up sketchy lectures on Marxism distractingly peppered with Marx Brothers jokes.
Between these interludes, though, there are a few more excellent songs, including a Lion’s Den style version of the notorious disability assessment regime, and a fierce satire on British attitudes to the monarchy in which McLean, as the Queen, yells out Monarchy In The UK, a lethally convincing top-down version of the Sex Pistols’ greatest hit. And at the end, dammit, David Anderson makes us cry, by calling up the spirit of John McGrath, and leading a new generation of Scottish theatre-makers in his great anti-Tory anthem, Get Them Out. So that with all its flaws, Demons comes as sharp reminder of how much we need this kind of angry, commited theatre; and how much we miss its sharp wit and acute political awareness, when it’s not around.