JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE DEFICIT SHOW at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 5.11.13.
3 stars ***
WHEN THE Play, Pie and Pint lunchtime season at Oran Mor decides it’s time for a political cabaret, it draws on one of the most venerable traditions in Scottish theatre; through David MacLennan, Play, Pie And Pint’s founder, the line stretches back to the early days of 7:84 Scotland, and beyond.
This time around, though, the Oran Mor team’s decision to stage a cabaret about the deficit – about who defines it, whether it exists, and what should be done about it – seems to provoke a slightly uncertain response, in the both audience and artsists. After a season in which seats have been hard to find at Oran Mor, this show attracts a smaller, quieter crowd; and the show itself seems more like a 55-minutes of random thoughts about fiscal lies, political truth, and the hard facts of poverty and inequality, than a cabaret driven from start to finish by a powerful and energised political argument.
Written by a ten-strong team that includes David MacLennan, Dave Anderson, Kieran Hurley, Alan Bissett, director Gary McNair, and four of the five cast members, the show has its telling moments, notably a fine Springsteen-inspired satirical song Born In G32, about the fate of those born in Glasgow’s most deprived post-code area, delivered with flair by Sandy Nelson. When it comes to the final song though – an edgy anthem about how the Tories are trying to finish what they started, back in the 1980’s – the tone somehow seems more desperate than upbeat. The need for a struggle is obvious, to any bunch of artists remotely connected to political history. The question, though is whether there actually is a struggle, at the moment, which the Oran Mor audience could think of joining; and so long as that remains uncertain, the songs of revolution somehow seem hard to write, and harder to sing with any relish.