Theatre

It’s Behind You!

Oran Mor, Glasgow

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Mary Brennan

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THE ‘behind you!’ shout out – one of panto’s evergreen moments of audience participation – comes when scary monsters or spooky ghosties are creeping up on our favourite characters. But what’s a Dame to do when the serious frighteners are starting to whisper ‘before you...’ and a future looms without garish frocks, lurid make-up, atrocious puns and saucy gags.

It hasn’t occurred to Norrie’s Dame Trot that he’s losing the place on-stage, and off. Or that the baggage of resentments that grow with every performance he shares with the younger, increasingly popular, Nicky, is a product of his own latent insecurities.

Initially Alan McHugh’s two-hander – opening this 28th season of A Play, A Pie and A Pint – is a stonking dressing-room bitch-fest between Norrie (played by McHugh himself) and Nicky (Paul James Corrigan). If Norrie’s sniping over what he sees as deliberate upstaging by Nicky – who’s playing the daft laddie, Simple Simon – starts off as a hilariously OTT rant, it soon shades into something genuinely savage, full of hysterical accusations that reveal this isn’t just professional rivalry: it’s a family affair.

The one-act, directed by Ian Grieve, draws deftly on McHugh’s mastery of essential panto craft – both as a bravura Dame and equally accomplished script-writer. The episodes where he bullies the affable Corrigan into rehearsing rapid patter exchanges – including the risque tongue-twister ‘shoe shine’ sketch – teeter between vaudeville comedy and the wretchedly driven obsessions of a man who feels his very identity, his high-end status as a performer, is being stolen from him.

Time is, of course, the real thief – not Nicky, whose ambitions include protecting the age-ing Norrie from further humiliations. If there’s nothing like a Dame, there’s nothing like your own dad, even when he’s absentmindedly stealing your jokes. Aaaawwww ... as we say in panto.