JOYCE MCMILLAN on ALICE IN POUNDLAND at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 13.7.12
2 stars **
IN WEATHER like this, a cheering lunchtime summer panto at Oran Mor is just what a rain-soaked audience needs; and at first glance, David MacLennan and David Anderson’s latest effort – directed on this occasion by Jimmy Chisholm – looks set to be a memorable addition to their recent series of cheeky satirical pantos for grown-ups. Strolling smugly down Byres Road one day, the show’s feisty little Alice falls down a manhole; and finds herself spiralling down through Glasgow’s retail class-structure, all the way to Poundland in Partick. Once there, she meets all sorts of victims of Britain’s collapsing economy; as well as a few repellent members of the boss-class, including a Tweedledum and Tweedledummer who look exactly like David Cameron and George Osborne.
The problem with all this, though, is that despite some excellent satirical ideas, the show never quite pulls itself together, in two important ways. In the first place, there’s an art to using a familiar story and characters without simply assuming that everyone in the audience knows all the detail; and this show repeatedly gets it wrong, presuming too much, and explaining too little.
Then there’s the pace, which is literally all over the pound-shop; the show rambles on until 2.15, largely because it fails to cut minutes of material that add nothing to the story or comedy, and because it indulges Anderson’s habit of corpsing most charmingly every couple of minutes. Add a final collapse of inspiration when it comes to the closing song – no satirical words, just a soppy choral version of Together Wherever We Go – and you have a panto that comes in well below the Play, Pie and Pint season’s best; although a sharply sardonic Clare Grozier as Alice, and George Drennan as assorted heralds and trumpeters, still turn in some fine comic riffs, and a few memorable moments.