That a stage update of the BBC’s hit eighties comedy drama which helped launch the careers of Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson written by its creator John Byrne would attract audiences is all but a given, as would the fact that Scots theatre-goers might be particularly impressed with its gallus, culturally-specific black humour. Yet a three hour ensemble effort told at whipcrack pace and incorporating its own live soundtrack is no mean feat, and one which might leave so many opportunities to underwhelm.
While it’s not perfect, however, this expansive National Theatre of Scotland production is undoubtedly a pleasing success. It batters away at you in the first half, laying exposition upon character work upon comedy set-pieces, but it never quite tips the balance – as is occasionally threatened – towards becoming muddled.
Byrne clearly had a job before him condensing a television series’ worth of action into an evening’s entertainment, yet the first hour and a half capably introduce us to over-the-hill Scots sixties beat combo The Majestics, their portly, slobbish new lead singer Danny McGlone (Tom Urie) and his one-time art-school squeeze Suzi Kettles (Dawn Steele), this easy-developed familiarity escalating into a dynamic and hilarious second half.
Although the patois-infused script is never far from a killer one-liner, the betrayals, manipulations and bust-ups of people sewn together in such a situation is never far from the surface, revealing the characters of people who can express their emotions only through light-hearted banter and loaded verbal abuse.
Of the support, the Scots stage veteran Tam Dean Burn is dynamic as the lecherous guitarist Vincent, while the Majestics’ manager Eddie Clockerty (John Ramage) and his louche secretary Janice (Julie Wilson Nimmo) own the play’s finest exchanges. Wideboy Clockerty frets and fusses, Janice harangues him as only the most indispensable employee can even dream of, and the pair come dangerously close to stealing the show. That honour, however, must go to Byrne, whose lively reinterpretation twenty years after the fact is a comeback the Majestics themselves could only dream of. ★★★★☆
Until Saturday 30th September, then at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh from Tuesday 3rd until Saturday 7th October. Tel +44 0845 270 8200