Comedy review: Burnistoun: Live and For Real!, Glasgow

Robert Florence and Iain Connell as Burnistoun's 'quality polis' McGregor and Toshan. Picture: Robert Perry
Robert Florence and Iain Connell as Burnistoun's 'quality polis' McGregor and Toshan. Picture: Robert Perry
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ON THE basis of giving the fans what they wanted, this live debut for Robert Florence and Iain Connell’s rascally sketch show can only be declared a success, the affection the audience roared for their favourite characters more than justifying the show’s forthcoming television return.

Burnistoun: Live and For Real! - King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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Nevertheless, it was unlike the novelty of getting a whole new Still Game storyline, along the lines of last year’s sell-out reunion at the Hydro, because sketch is an altogether different beast to a sitcom. Closer in tenor to the recent Monty Python live show, Burnistoun: Live and For Real often felt like a valedictory lap of honour, the set-ups and lines of jukebox comedy tending to lose some of their spark on account of the cumulative weight of their familiarity.

Florence and Connell’s relative stage inexperience never showed, however, and they foregrounded the pantomime aspect of the evening from the start, with “quality polis” Toshan and McGregor directly addressing the crowd and pastiche-singing their way off stage with an ode to pakora channelling West Side Story.

There was a similar and clunkier ending to the “Nae Rolls” sketch, an enjoyable counter encounter in the vein of Python’s “Dead Parrot” – the pressure to reproduce the escalating frustration of the shopkeeper exactly as on television tempered by the live demand that there should also be a twist.

An even better example of this proved to be the duo’s voice recognition lift sketch, witnessed by millions online since it was first broadcast. By any measure something of a modern classic, Florence and Connell were damned if they performed it and damned if they didn’t. So anticipating their lines being pre-empted by shouts from the stalls, they threw in a few superficial curveballs. Unfortunately, with these and pauses for laughter breaks, it never zinged and like a couple of other sketches went on rather too long.

Much more effective were the sequences which leaned on the performances rather than the writing, the “Up Eh Road” guys and the supposedly honourable MSPs traducing each others’ wives, big, ludicrous grotesques that truly swelled in the theatrical environment.

Unsurprisingly, some of the loudest cheers were reserved for two of the biggest, daftest characters in the entire Burnistoun firmament, the deranged ice cream seller siblings Walter and Paul. As Florence and O’Connell berated those who reckoned they’d been killed off, they found one of those sweet spots when established and fresh material balanced each other perfectly. With strong support from Louise Stewart and Gerry McLaughlin, the Burnistoun boys showed that they can more than cut it as a live comedy act, so it’s to be hoped they explore this avenue further.

Seen on 25.03.15