JOYCE MCMILLAN on A BIT OF A DICK WHITTINGTON at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 11.7.13.
4 stars ****
IT SPEAKS VOLUMES about the recent history of Scottish theatre that of all the companies in the land, it’s David MacLennan’s Play, Pie And Pint at Oran Mor that honours the lost tradition of the end-of-the-pier Scottish summer pantomime. A Play, A Pie, And A Pint may be all about new writing, and MacLennan and his partner David Anderson may have learned their craft in the political theatre of the Wildcat era; but they are the true heirs of Scotland’s popular entertainment tradition, with all its cheeky irreverence, and its scepticism about those in power.
So here we have a beezer of a summer panto for grownups, set in a Britain where London is recovering from the recession at warp speed, but every other part of the island remains stony broke. Hoping to bridge this ever-growing “wealth gap”, our entrepreneurial hero Dick (the delightful, sharp-as-a-tack Katie Barnett) leaves Glasgow – where’s he’s been ousted from his auntie’s spare room by the bedroom tax – for London, where he finds the streets not so much paved with gold as oozing with oligarchs, including the one who offers him a job teaching English to his unlovely daughter Anastasia, played with great whiskery charm by Mr. Anderson.
Dick, though, is no hero with a heart of gold; and with the help of Juliet Cadzow as his gorgeous cockney cat Westminster, he is soon raking in the untaxed millions, and shaping up to become the next Lord Mayor. The show features plenty of rollicking songs with searingly witty lyrics, and a fine reworking of all the key elements of the original Dick Whittington plot; and beyond the laughter, there’s also a real sense of despair about the future of a country where the poor suffer and the infrastructure crumbles, while the super-rich party on, and flatly refuse to pay their taxes.