Cranhill Carmen

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

Way-hey! The gallus minx is back – and by popular demand, as part of this year-long 500 Plays celebration in which new writing has premiered alongside revivals of favourite works, as voted for by Play, Pie and a Pint audiences.

Cranhill Carmen originally kicked up her (peerie) heels at Oran Mor in June last year, rounding off the mini-musicals season with a take on Bizet’s opera that relocated the action to a dingy, grey Glasgow, sometime in the 1950s.

At first Benny Young’s version – with the familiar tunes arranged by Hilary Brooks – allows the free-spirited Carmen to play to our expectations: she’s unapologetically louche, flirty and forward with her sexual favours, and fond of a bevvy. Charlene Boyd – returning to the role she created – comes on feisty and full-throttled as the girl who just wants to have some technicolour fun in her drab, post-war life.

So it’s fun to tease and seduce the upright PC Donald John MacNeil (Ewan Petrie) away from his ingrained beliefs – shock him by leaving no graphic expletive deleted, no knowingly coorse reference to the mechanics of "houghmagandie" toned down. Mind you, does he really want to save her for God – or for himself?

And it’s fun to hook up with the swaggering Glesga Millio, who sports a bright red matador’s costume and has the very obvious hots for her. Actually – wanton hussy – this is not Carmen’s first-time Millio! That was Ryan Fletcher. This time, it’s Jason Harvey who’s flourishing the bull-fighter’s cape and delivering his entendre-laden patter with aplomb.

The Bizet ‘hits’, with lyrics wittily rendered into robust Glesca’ patois, are impressively sung by all three but look beyond the back-street shenanigans and you’ll catch sight of something really tragic – three individuals who long to escape dull routine, find excitement in their own terms, live the way they want. Gaun yersel’ Carmen – and believe me, she does.