JOYCE MCMILLAN on LITTLE JOHNNY’S BIG GAY WEDDING at Langside Hall, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 7.6.10
4 stars ****
WHEN THE HISTORY OF THE EARLY years of the National Theatre of Scotland comes to be written, theorists will produce whole chapters about the company’s current long march through the borderlands between theatre and more popular forms of performance. In the past year, the NTS has explored country music in Long Gone Lonesome, and a fairground ride in Wall Of Death; on this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, they present a play about wrestling. And this week, the NTS goes into partnership with Arches-based duo Random Accomplice to explore the performance potential of that great British occasion for seeing and being seen, the wedding reception.
Little Johnny’s Big Gay Wedding is the third in Johnny McKnight’s successful series of musicals about the life and times of a Glasgow gay man with a fierce showbiz obsession, and a big, smother-loving family. It features Johnny as both bride and groom (“which of the woofters gets to wear the dress?” asks one of his aunties), and his stage partner Julie Brown as his harassed sister, organising the event. It also features the Victorian elegance of Langside Hall – pretty in pink, for the occasion – as well as a four-piece band, a complicated seating plan, and a fine choir of waiters in sparkly waistcoats, singing torch-songs from Love Is Strange to Misty Blue.
The 90-minute show is loosely structured around a series of truths Little Johnny has learned about love; it has a disorientating twist in the tail, and Johnny’s solo delivery is sometimes so breathlessly paced that the content is lost. But this is a brave and funny show, all the same, which tries to confront the paradox that a single life is more to be celebrated than the kind of bad marriage in which Johnny’s relatives often become entangled; yet somehow never has its moment of celebration, or its big night out in Queen’s Park, with a glass of fizz thrown in.