A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Stagecraft: Book: Performance:
In Edwardian times, when out and about, a lady wore her hat. Not so to do, was frowned upon and any woman who wantonly displayed her locks in public might be given the pejorative term ‘hairy’. In Glasgow she would have been known as a ‘herrie’. Over the years, ‘wee herrie’ evolved into a set phrase that was used to describe a female of doubtful virtue.
When we meet Carmen walking the mean streets of Saturday-night Glasgow, back in the 1950s, she tunefully informs us she is “Herrie Mary from the Gallowgate”. She is also seeking the convenience of a secluded lane in which to urinate. (Drink has been taken.) Happily she finds one, squats in a corner and goes about her business. Her actions are seen (and heard) by a young policeman Donald, recruited from the Highlands to keep the city streets safe. With his heart full of love for his mother and his church, he feels he has no option but to take down her details for committing such an offence. Although extremely straight laced, he finds something in this foul mouthed beauty intriguing, could he be the one to save her? He has a rival for her soul in Glesga Millio, who believes he is the man Carmen is looking for and has the distinct advantage of being in possession of a half bottle, when Carmen has a right drouth on her. What’s a girl to do?
Charlene Boyd’s Carmen fizzes and bubbles with street smarts. The dress, lips and flower in her hair are all scarlet, indicating passion and danger, both of which she revels in. Innocence and illusions have long since been stripped; she is a woman who knows exactly what men see in her. She sings, struts and spouts bad language beautifully.
Ryan Fletcher’s Millio fancies Carmen something rotten and sets about to win her with wide-boy patter. He’s full of swaggering self belief, dodgy compliments and smutty innuendoes. Ewan Petrie’s Donald is a wistful young man from a sheltered background who is appalled and fascinated by Carmen in equal measure. His light voice brings a plaintive innocence to his sentimental songs that contrast with the brash, gritty reality of the other two characters.
Benny Young’s musical play is a treat. Though based on the Bizet opera there is a fresh take on the story, further enhanced by staging it in Glasgow. The opportunity to use the local parlance has not been abused; each colourful, stinging retort is believable, true and necessary. The songs are well crafted and when comic, really funny. Seldom has foul, abusive vulgarity been put to such excellent use. This Carmen is a rebellious burd, well worth catching.
David G Moffat