Whit’s goin’ oan in Auchenshuggle? If Jackie Kay’s loose-knit cabaret reinvention of the nation’s cartoon first lady is anything to go by, the gallus besom’s not only rediscovered her funny bone, but she’s gone and got herself emancipated with it.
As projected quotes from Carl Jung, Virginia Woolf, Karl Mark and others usher in each belated life lesson, the ultimate working-class matriarch meets her match in her all-singing, all-dancing psyche.
In her own words, Maw Broon is “built like a bothy” and is craving for adventure beyond Glebe Street. Maw and her doppelganger duly embark on an adventure that takes in everything from therapy and colonic irrigation to rehab and political discourse with a less likeable Broon. En route, Maw sings the blues, gets down and dirty and discovers big words beyond the reductive tartan kitsch she was drawn, if not born, into.
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The end result is a form of hand-me-down feminism patented in the 1970s alternative theatre scene, but reinvented here in Maggie Kinloch’s Glasgay! production with polish as well as punchlines. As the two Maws, Terry Neason and Suzanne Bonnar make for a magnificently brassy double act. Musical director Tom Urie, meanwhile, is a larger than life accompaniment. It would be wrong to reveal which Broon he turns up dressed as, but let’s just say he more resembles Desperate Dan in drag.
As with David Greig and Gordon MacIntyre’s collaboration on their indie pop stage rom-com Midsummer this time last year, here is a popular mini musical with substance as well as style. Kay has gone further, subverting – some might say corrupting – a national treasure by making her an independent woman to be reckoned with.
Star rating: ****