Turn the Night

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

Four stars

Karaoke night is the main event in Gav Prentice’s new solo play performed by himself in the Tron’s Victorian Bar, which here doubles up as the sort of small town social club or pub that was once the hub of the local community. These days, alas, as Prentice makes clear, they are dying out, priced out by soulless chain pubs or else going for a song for developers to snap up. Tonight, however, all the regulars are in, with assorted movers and shakers embodied by Prentice with little more than a microphone, a laptop and an old-school computerised backdrop on which the lyrics are spelt out for the night’s plucky turns.

Titch is the main man, holding the night together with some creaky routines and past-it’s-prime patter bolstered by his sidekick Kevin, who may yet prove to be the one most likely to. Then there is Caroline, the belle of the ball with stars in her eyes. Only her husband and club treasurer Rick is keen to put a dampener on the night with some company business that might silence things forever.

In terms of recognising the power and potency cheap music to bring people together, there are echoes here of everything from the plays of Jim Cartwright to Chumbawamba’s 1990s entryist pop hit, Tubthumping, all the way back to Terence Davies’ back-street grimoir, Distant Voices, Still Lives.

Prentice has fun with all this, making his everyday tale of working-class culture very much his own, giving each character a theme song as he goes. His own experience playing low-key gigs with his band Over the Wall comes into play here, and for all the cheesy karaoke arrangements of his original material, both the quality of the songs and his delivery are more evocative than any off-key cover version could ever be. What comes through most of all is a gentle nod to a form of self-determined entertainment which may never make the headlines, but which for the one-night superstars who take the stage, makes for the happiest of hours.