JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE TALE O’ FANNY CHA CHA at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for the Scotsman 10.5.14.
3 stars ***
IF DAVID HAIG’S Pressure at the Royal Lyceum tells one vital untold story from Scottish history this week, then the actress and writer Joyce Falconer rolls out another in her new lunchtime show for A Play, A Pie And A Pint, co-produced with Aberdeen Performing Arts. Conceived as a kind of World Cup Special, The Tale O’ Fanny Cha Cha is a historical drama about the links between Scotland and Brazil, a nation strongly represented in the Atlantic sea trade that fuelled Glasgow’s traditional industrial economy.
So on one hand, there’s Thomas Donohoe from Busby, the man who reputedly took football to Brazil in the 1890’s; and then there’s Francesca, a fierce young Brazilian woman who, in the 1920’s, stows away in a banana boat from Rio to escape a violent marriage, and ends up on the Broomielaw, under the protection of Thomas’s nephew Tam, a docker and First World War veteran who encourages Fanny in her efforts to make a new life, and eventually marries her aboard a Clyde steamer.
Falconer’s play – performed by a cast of four with a dozen extras – revolves around this unexpected love-story, and is full of cheerful myth-making about the Glasgow welcome Fanny received, despite a nod to the bigotry she also encounters. It’s also stuffed with songs, not memorable, but often touching; and it benefits from some lively direction by Falconer herself, and from a gorgeous central performance from Itxaso Moreno, as the woman who eventually became “Granny Fanny” to a whole tribe of modern Scottish football fans, now bound for Brazil.