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