First published in The Times, Monday February 6 2017
“We’re gonnae keep it real this time,” says Jack (Ford Kiernan) at the start of this second live outing for the Glasgow sitcom, a nod to the dazzling Bollywood song-and-dance number that brought the curtain (and the house) down at the end of the first incarnation of Still Game Live, back in 2014.
Predictably, Jack’s claim of going back to comedy basics is undermined almost immediately when Navid (Sanjeev Kohli) appears, floating on a magic carpet above the counter in Harrid’s convenience store. Isa (Jane McCarry) makes her entrance, with sparks shooting out of the end of her mop. Winston (Paul Riley) arrives, flying from wires, Peter Pan-style, while Tam (Mark Cox) fires himself out of a cannon. The crowd in the 12,000-seat Hydro goes wild.
It is a neat way of reintroducing the much-loved inhabitants of Craiglang while acknowledging the scale and capacity of a venue usually reserved for big-name rock concerts. Indeed, the stage at the Hydro is so vast that it can comfortably accommodate three sets at once. The lights go down on Victor’s (Greg Hemphill) front room in one corner only to come up on Navid’s shop or the Clansman pub, presided over by wannabe lothario Boaby (Gavin Mitchell). Those sitting miles away in the gods have the option of watching proceedings on one of the huge screens that hang at either end of the stage.
Pic: © Graeme Hunter
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a show that commands such a large and loyal following, this latest instalment, written by Hemphill and Kiernan, is at its most agreeable when it sticks to the ingredients that made it so irresistible in the first place. The opening act, in which Winston, enraged at Tam’s pathological penny-pinching, tricks his best pal into believing he is dying of “miseritis”, flits between the familiar settings, with the script capably balancing the mix of gentle observational humour and downright filth that is the show’s hallmark.
The balance tips heavily in one direction following the interval when, in true sitcom spinoff tradition, the ensemble decamps en masse for a Mediterranean cruise, with various bawdy or scatological episodes taking place against the incongruous backdrop of Ben Stones’s lavish Anything Goes-style set design. At this point, all semblance of structure or warmth vanishes from the writing, with the cast reduced to mouthpieces for increasingly potty-mouthed diatribes and innuendo.
Pic: © Graeme Hunter
In the end the script is simply too flabby to justify the nearly three-hour running time, and though the raucous atmosphere in the auditorium at times more resembles a football match than your average theatre performance, this game is definitely one of two halves.