Casablanca (the lunchtime cut)

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

five stars

Raves to the right of it, plaudits to the left of it and now – in the middle of this Play, Pie and a Pint 500 season – Casablanca:the Gin Joint Cut, returns to Oran Mor in a special lunchtime version that, if anything, feels even nattier and fizzingly fun-tastic than the slightly longer original from 2010.

Of all the plays, in all the fifteen years and 30 seasons, this won the PPP’s People’s Choice Vote - the current revival is now the 500th play to be staged since the start of the late David MacLennan’s lunchtime initiative. In truth, not every PPP production has risen to the heights of writer/director Morag Fullarton’s tongue-in-cheek hommage to Michael Curtiz’s 1942 Hollywood classic, Casablanca.

As time has gone by, the rollicking three-hander has done two Edinburgh Fringes and toured to Paris, London, Barbados – and Dunoon. Mostly with the same cast of Gavin Mitchell, Clare Waugh and Jimmy Chisholm as the unabashed thesps who conjure up Bogart, Bergman and many others within the cluttered confines of Rick’s Bar.

This time round, however, Chisholm’s commitments mean that Kevin Lennon has stepped into the shoes – and jackets and hats – of five characters ranging from slightly effeminate French captain Louis Renaud to resistance fighter Victor Lazlo by way of the crooked Ugarte.

With accents changing as quickly as his characters’ costumes, Lennon keeps well-timed pace with Mitchell and Waugh as they negotiate Fullarton’s precisely engineered switches of tone from spoof to serious drama, the latter underpinned by the factual asides that provide a wartime context to Casablanca the movie. It’s a total joy. We laugh, in sheer delight, at Mitchell’s urbane Bogart, forced by today’s ‘No smoking’ regulations to mime Rick’s laconic cigarettes. And we chortle at Waugh’s sudden shift from Bergman’s limpid Ilsa into rampant-barking Nazi Major. Not a trick is ever missed here, whether it’s a moment of arch farce or a genuinely tender glance.

Keep playing it, folks…