Thank You Very Much

Couper Institute, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

five stars

A young, leather-jacketed Elvis is on-stage and he’s all shook up – pelvis shunted sideways, knee crooked inwards. tremors in his legs.His whole body looks out of true, and – as Claire Cunningham tells us in Thank You Very Much – that archive footage totally connected with her teenage self.

She too had skewed mobility, only it wasn’t an act. It still isn’t, but here she is, along with three fellow ‘trouble-makers’, performing a wisely cheeky, unstintingly honest show about assuming some-one else’s identity – yes, it’s Elvis – and finding the truths of your own resilient, rebellious, self. A self that needs no mask, even if dressing up in Vegas-era Elvis costumes is fun – and hugely entertaining for audiences, too!

Daniel Daw, Tanja Erhart and Vicky Malin have all – like Cunningham –spent hours with physiotherapists, pushing bodies to acquire muscle control, balance, co-ordination. The recorded voices of Elvis impersonators offer mentoring advice that sounds almost wayward in comparison, but as each performer embraces how to walk in the King’s blue suede shoes, they use the process as a springboard for frank and forthright auto-biographical monologues. Erhart, twinkly and mischievous, describes her 15-year-old self rejecting the prosthetic leg that felt more of a hindrance than a help. Cunningham also made stubborn choices: painful surgeries on her feet? for what? she wouldn’t walk better – but she could wear high heels...

The astutely clever dots that Cunningham has threaded through this piece join up to cogent, thought-provoking effect – whether it’s Elvis thrusting rock’n’roll into the public view or those with disability owning their imperfections on-stage, what’s being challenged is social prejudice, even hostility.’Love me tender’ is the theme song throughout. The sheer generousity of this piece, and its feisty performers, deserves nothing less.

This co-production between the National Theatre of Scotland and Manchester International Festival now tours internationally – here’s hoping it comes back again, soon.