A Play, A Pie and A Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Stagecraft: Book: Performance:
Wee Free! is a rare & scintillating treat, a genuinely funny play with lovely musical interludes. It comes to us via the classic sounding ‘Brooks & King’ – i.e. composer Hilary brooks & playwright/lyricist Clive King, both of whom are Glasgow based. The story they give us us essentially a blend of Mary Poppins, Footloose & the Wickerman; where a young Glaswegian music teacher (played by Neshla Caplan) is given a posting on a far-flung, god-fearing, refridgerator-lacking Hebredean rock – where all the man (except Hamish down the pub) are called Angus.
Pink-haired, day-glo Caplan is an excellent watch as are the rest of the cast. Chris Forbes is more known for the comedian string to his bow, but his acting as the tweed-adoring headmaster who falls in love with this ‘exotic’ newcomer is top notch. ‘Your language is as colourful as your attire,’ pipes Pauline Knowles to Caplan, playing an amazingly sketched out caricature of the bible-bashing, never-leave-the-island minister’s wife, while her husband, the gravel-faced, brimstone-spitting, ‘Dundee is an east coast sodom,’ George Drenna is another scarily-drawn portrayal. Together they form a perfect macrocosm of island life & its inevitable clash with the ‘sinful’ world of the cosmopolitan mainland, & a great pleasure it is to be there.
The music is a perhaps a little unnecessary, as ‘Wee Free!’ is such a good story & so well written – I mean, the one-liners explode into the audience with a great regularity – that the music actually detracts from the experience, when usually in musical theatre it is the other way round. But I’m not dissing the music – its fine, its just that the script is abnormally funny & cannily observant, & perhaps the only place one can still hear today Boy George being called a ‘Godless Gargoyle’ whose ‘real name is Beelzebub!’
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen