Tramway, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

Four stars

Imagine waking up one morning and the world you thought you knew appears to have been taken over by what you previously regarded as something other. That’s kind of the starting point for this audacious collaboration between director Stewart Laing and writer Pamela Carter, which draws on ideas and iconography from the 1950s piece of Cold War sci-fi paranoia about giant insects that gives the show its title. It duly explodes all this into a piece of total theatre that explores the ever changing ways of being we’re living through today, with one eye on tomorrow, and, with any luck, a bright new future ahead.

Carter and Laing frame this in the form of a prime time TV chat show, hosted by irrepressible actress Kiruna Stamell. The house band led by Carla J Easton is in place, and special guest for the evening is, for a while at least, the real Stewart Laing, who’s here to talk about his Glasgow-set musical remake of Them!

This is as straight as things get in Laing’s National Theatre of Scotland production, as identities are swapped, reinvention is all the rage and ridicule is nothing to be scared of. As guests go off-script on Nick Millar’s TV studio set, it feels like anything might happen, and probably will. And that’s just the first part, as all notions of what theatre is, was and could be are confounded and subverted by the sheer array of ideas laid bare by more than twenty performers on stage, all dressed in uniform black tracksuits.

The second and third acts feature a whole lot more bodies, with the third part in particular showing off a cast of thousands at work, rest and play as the collective body politic transcends wanton individualism in surprising and radically different ways. The end result is a bold, playful and ever-expanding theatrical mash-up that provokes, meditates, sings, shouts and dances its way through a mixed-up, muddled up, shook-up world with glorious abandon.