JOYCE MCMILLAN on SHANG-A-LANG at the Village Theatre, East Kilbride, for The Scotsman 2.11.13
3 stars ***
DON’T LOOK NOW, unless you want an eyeful of big hair, tight lurex flares, and silver glitter platform boots; but it looks as if the Seventies are back in fashion. First there was Jackie The Musical at Dundee, and now there’s this barnstorming new Rapture Theatre touring production of Catherine Johnson’s Bay City Rollers-based Seventies tribute show Shang-A-Lang, by the same woman who wrote Mamma Mia.
It has to be said, though, that even in the famously frank world of girls’-night-out shows, Shang-a-Lang – first seen in London in 1998, when the Rollers generation was rising 40 – must take some kind of prize for the sheer potty-mouthed filthiness of its dialogue, as its three heroines Pauline, Jackie and Lauren set off for a nostalgic Seventies weekend at a Butlin’s camp. Political correctness is in short supply, as they encounter two blokes from a tribute band who routinely refer to women as “fanny” and “minge”, and who appear at an early stage blacked up to represent an American soul band, triggering a string of jokes about golliwogs.
Not all the youthful bubblegum sweetness of the songs, in other words, can quite compensate for the depressing crudeness of some of the dialogue, delivered here in a booze-soaked Scots idiom that seems to fit well enough. The show has real energy and warmth, though, and a handful of joyously wild performances, notably from Stewart Porter and Iain Robertson as the blokes, and Lyn McAndrew as unloved Pauline, celebrating – or failing to celebrate – her 40th birthday weekend. And the women of East Kilbride seemed happy to wave their tartan scarves and shriek their approval from the first f-word on; for a show that will doubtless win the same warm response, as it travels on to Musselburgh, Bathgate and Stirling, and to the King’s Theatre, Glasgow,