Aye, Elvis

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan, four stars

ABERDEEN – like the rest of the UK – never saw Elvis performing in the flesh. Nonetheless, the wonder of Elvis lives on: often in the very variable shapes of Elvis impersonators. Joan (Joyce Falconer) prefers to call them ‘tribute artists’. In truth, at local karaoke nights in Aberdeen, Joan’s gung-ho Doric renditions of Elvis classics are more of a tribute to fantasy –aspiration triumphing over down-to-earth reality. But when reality is a dead-end job, alongside being the sole carer for an elderly mother in a wheelchair ... well, surely Joan has earned her right to dream of applause, of winning cash prizes, of going to Graceland?

It’s this back-story of a cash-strapped, drab existence that brings Morna Young’s engagingly daft comedy to the edge of a genuinely affecting abyss of bleak disappointment. If Young’s writing is adept at changing gears between the highs and lows of Joan’s single-minded discovery of her ‘inner Elvis’ then director Ken Alexander and a tremendous cast are totally onside in shading the broad sweeps of humour with sadly telling little character details. There’s such helpless frustration in Agnes' (Karen Ramsay) fists, beating against the air as she rails against being left alone and housebound – again – because daughter Joan is out, channelling Elvis. And there’s a wistful sincerity in David McGowan’s lovelorn DJ, Fat Bob – ever helpful, but barely registered by Joan on her quest for success. Meanwhile Joyce Falconer – encased in a white rhinestone-studded and caped jumpsuit that echoes Elvis’s Vegas days – is capturing the very essence of Joan’s yearning to have a life, even if that life shadows that of a dead pop icon. She acquires the curling snarl of Elvis’s upper lip, adopts the stances, the kicks, the gestures – it’s Elvis, but it’s truly the indomitable Joan who’s the real King-pin here.