Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald
The tradition of variety theatre in Scotland is long standing. As a veteran of the scene, Allan Stewart brings his Big Big Variety Show back to Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre to remind us why variety should remain at the heart of Scottish theatre.
The all-star lineup includes King’s Theatre stalwart and panto baddie Grant Stott, who plays along with chum Allan Stewart in a number of sketches, as well as his own slot of stand up. He proves himself beloved among his native Edinburgh audience – though not always in his references to his beloved Hibernian Football Club, and his tales of life as a bobby on the beat were as entertaining as insightful. Britain’s Got Talent star Edward Reid returns to the King’s with his unique blend of diva moves, nursery rhymes and pop songs. Proving he is as much a comedian as a singer, with his quick quips between songs, Reid proves himself to be a real hit on a variety bill. Elaine C Smith, star of BBC’s Two Doors Down and star in her own right, gives her topical take on politics and gender. Smith offers a unique take on current affairs with her trademark perspective as life as a woman in the 21st century.
Act II welcomes back the Macrobert Brothers with another roof-raising performance of folk ‘classics’. Allan Stewart’s hilarious send up of Scottish folk bands, Aran jumper included, is welcomed back with open arms after its inception a few years ago. It remains, arguably, the highlight of the show and although its stereotypes may not be totally politically correct, the Brothers cannot fail to tickle the funny bone. 70s chart toppers Pilot impress with a selection of their hits, including January and Magic. The band retain their upbeat sound and prove that their repertoire truly is timeless. Under the variety billing, the band fit in well; their select songs provide a perfect interlude from the fun and frolics.
Allan Stewart proves himself, once again, to be the king of variety. The roof is raised as he imagines pantomime at the King’s 20 years from now, entering on a mobility scooter after a few G&Ts with the usual chaos ensuing. As the anchor of the show, Stewart shows himself to be as easily the compere as the star. His sketches show a true legend at work and his cabaret musicianship, worked on in theatres and cruise ships the world over, is as hilarious as his in-between quips.
On press night, the audience were treated to a guest appearance from international recording star Susan Boyle, who performed a moving rendition of I Dreamed a Dream. Her appearance is the icing on the cake to an already talent-packed evening.
With a genuinely impressive lineup and the perfect mix of music and comedy, Allan Stewart’s Big Big Variety Show is sure to entertain even the most discerning theatre goer. If the Big Big Variety Show is the test of whether variety still has its place in Scottish theatre, it is safe to say that variety theatre has a long and healthy future in the hands of Allan Stewart.
Runs until 4 March 2017 | Image: Contributed