Review: Still Game Live 2 at the SSE Hydro

Joyce McMillan reviews the latest Still Game live show at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow.

Still Game: Live 2 Bon Voyage. Picture: Graeme Hunter
Still Game: Live 2 Bon Voyage. Picture: Graeme Hunter

Rating: * * *

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There was a match on at Ibrox, where the crowd may have been bigger; but still, it was an impressive thing, on Saturday afternoon, to see a crowd of more than 10,000 roll up to the Hydro in Glasgow for the first performance of Still Game 2: Bon Voyage, the sequel to the first live stadium version of the much-loved television sit-com, which wowed audiences at The Hydro in 2014.

Still Game: Live 2 Bon Voyage. Picture: Graeme Hunter

This time around, though, the show takes a slightly less familiar turn, with decidedly mixed results. Back in 2014, the story stayed firmly planted in its home community of Craiglang, a mythical part of Glasgow where the main attractions are the Clansman Bar run by Barman Boabie, and Navid’s corner shop; then, only a final Bollywood dream-sequence offered the chance of a glittering song and dance number to match the scale of the venue.

And the first half of Still Game 2 confidently inhabits the same familiar Craiglang landscape, with the show’s writers Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill grunting up a storm as twin elderly anti-heroes Jack and Victor, indulging in Beckettian chat about the likelihood of either of them receiving a Valentine, and experiencing a chance encounter with an old chum who suggests they become professional cruise ship dancers, twirling lonely elderly ladies round the deck in return for a free trip.

So far, so hilarious, particularly when Jack and Victor try to gain the necessary qualifications down at the local ballroom dancing club; “strictly come dying”, Jack dubs its elderly clientele, in a fine display of Still Game’s usual lack of respect for life, death, and the whole damned thing.

In the second half, though, Still Game 2 abandons the mixture of classic Craiglang dialogue, entertaining filmed sequences, and wild sorties into the audience that made Still Game 1 such a fascinating formal mash-up, and goes straight for a spectacular shipboard musical look, with terrific sets by designer Ben Stone, the whole cast on a Mediterranean cruise, and dialogue that hardly seems to know how to deal with its new setting except by becoming ever more explicitly sexual, rude and raunchy, as Jane McCarry’s ever-put-upon Isa embarks on an embarrassing erotic misunderstanding with her boss Navid, and Jack and Victor both get the hots for the ship’s sultry onboard singer, Yvonne.

Still Game: Live 2 Bon Voyage. Picture: Graeme Hunter

The dance team are fabulous, the regular cast are all in fine form, and Lorraine McIntosh delivers a real star turn as the gorgeous Yvonne. By the end of a longish second half, though, I couldn’t wait for the characters to make their way back to Craiglang, the place that gives their comedy its satirical edge, and its dour post-romantic energy.

And despite a rousing standing ovation from the huge crowd, I’d be willing to bet that I wasn’t alone in thinking that three hours of this particular voyage was just a little more than enough.

Still Game: Live 2 Bon Voyage. Picture: Graeme Hunter
Still Game: Live 2 Bon Voyage. Picture: Graeme Hunter