Theatre review: Still Game, SSE Hydro

Greg Hemphill (Victor) and Ford Kiernan (Jack) on stage at the SSE Hydro. Picture: Marc Turner

Greg Hemphill (Victor) and Ford Kiernan (Jack) on stage at the SSE Hydro. Picture: Marc Turner

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FOR THOSE travelling to the Hydro by train, the Still Game fun started way before Jack, Victor and co made their stage entrances just after 7.30pm.

Still Game live

SSE Hydro

Rating: * * * *

A tannoy address from the curmudgeonly pair greeted us upon arrival at the Exhibition Centre station while signs had been changed to ‘way oot’ and ‘lavvy’ while a ‘weclome’ mat was provided.

In this vast auditorium, the fictional world of Craiglang has been rendered beautifully with its three main locations occupying the stage at all times. The centrepiece is the Clansman pub where the chat veers from friendly banter to outright abuse while the shop run by Navid (Sanjeev Kohli) and our pensioner heroes’ front room act as bookends. A wonderful job has been done by the production team in putting this altogether and keeping the action flowing (though the recurring between-scenes motif of Craiglang phrases repeated in the style of a foreign language learning aid does eventually jar).

They could also have employed a reputable brickie given how many times the fourth wall was built up and broken down. This enjoyable meta-narrative thread runs through the show, with Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill using their opening salvo to comment on the surroundings and reflect on how comedy acts who break up only to reform somewhere down the line is never anything other than a cynical money-making exercise.

This self-reflexivity offers relief to those who may have been punch-drunk by the occasional tendency to simply chuck in an isolated gob of industrial language as the sole means of getting a laugh. But this show is way better than that and contains a finale that is so off-beam and unpredictable that it would be criminal for punters or reviewers to spoil for the many thousands set to experience it over the next few weeks.

The story itself revolves around Jack and Victor’s naivety with modern technology, the search by Winston (Paul Riley) for a perfect false limb and barman Bobby (Gavin Mitchell) trying to keep his feelings for Jack’s daughter under wraps while she prepares to renew her vows. Taking a wildly popular TV sitcom and making it work in an arena is no mean feat. Earlier this year, Miranda Hart attempted to put on a stand-up/cabaret show at the same venue while realising that people were really there to see the facial tics of ‘Miranda’ and hear the catchphrases. In the end, she fell (yes, sometimes literally) between two stools.

Still Game was never likely to make that same error, going full throttle with a wholehearted rendition of the TV affair while applying several large and luscious cherries on top. There’s even a DVD extras feel to proceedings with big screens showing its actors undergoing an ageing process in the make-up room (including a lovely gag about the only member of the main cast who is made to act their age) while the interval entertainment features pre-recorded interviews with the famed cameo likes of Jim Watt and Michelle McManus.

This is a clever, vibrant and packed show which merrily plays to its audience yet has a broad appeal for Craiglang virgins looking for more substance to a comedy stage show. It may be a dangerous thing to say in this post-referendum world, but Still Game really does thrive with being the best of both worlds.

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