First published in The Times, Tuesday December 4 2018
The annual Tron pantomime is not exactly renowned for its restraint. This year, every gaudy element has been dialled up to the max. The baroque colour palette of Kenny Miller, the designer, feels more intense than ever. The amount of glitter and PVC on display makes Lady Gaga’s stage costumes look refined. The script, written by Johnny McKnight, who also directs and stars as the titular matriarch, is dizzyingly dense in pop cultural references.
While the wrapping is as wildly exaggerated as ever, the raucous atmosphere goes hand-in-hand with an appealing generosity of spirit. Jack Goose, played by Darren Brownlie, may appear in a grotesque orange-frightwig-and-leopard-print-leggings combo that invites cruel comparisons to both Jackie Bird and Rod Stewart, but there’s a touching naivety to his burgeoning romance with Will Visage (Ryan Ferrie), the tortured son of dastardly Vanity (Lauren Ellis-Steele), that really has the audience rooting for the star-crossed couple.
Pic: John Johnston
As Mammy Goose, the big-hearted Maryhill Road greasy spoon proprietor, and best pal to Lucy (Julie Wilson Nimmo), a golden egg-laying goose, McKnight arrives surrounded by his legendary fat suit, and bearing a mighty arsenal of fruity one-liners and polished ad-libs. The man-hungry Mammy’s forays through the fourth wall may send audible shivers of anguish through the men in the auditorium (particularly those seated adjacent to the aisle) but there are also many in the up-for-it audience who relish these forthright but good-natured interactions. While this great Glasgow dame is rightly the star attraction, McKnight never jealously hogs the limelight, building in plenty of opportunities for the versatile supporting cast to showcase their talents.
The show isn’t dependent on plot for its appeal, though McKnight’s script does at least follow a coherent, classical storyline, in which the heroine trades loveable Lucy for eternal youth and beauty, only to deeply regret her Faustian pact when the evil Vanity threatens to, quite literally, cook her goose.
Pic: John Johnston
All of this is of secondary importance to witty set pieces, including an inch-perfect lampooning of drab Wetherspoon’s Pubs and after-office drinking culture, and some vibrantly staged musical numbers, composed by Ross Brown, the show’s musical director, and choreographed by Sarah Wilkie. The company may be comparatively small (five named parts and a supporting ensemble of two) but the level of energy and colour on display here is more than sufficient to power a dozen festive shows.