Writer: Rob Drummond
Director: Andrew Panton
Reviewer: S.E. Webster
Argumentative, mischievous, fiery, rude, loyal, musically-minded and thoroughly endearing, The Broons are one of Scotland’s national treasures. The comic strip has run since 1936 and in spite of the changing times, it has remained steadfast and unshaken in its popularity. Now in their 80th year, the eccentric family of Scots has made the leap from page to stage in a new play.
Avid fans of the comic strips need not fear for their beloved Broons. This production does justice to the original characters and is a triumph of musical theatrical comedy.
The actors are all well cast in their respective roles and have great chemistry with one another, delivering strong confident performances. Their comic timing is excellent and Rob Drummond, the author of this new stage play, has written a script that abounds with fresh as well as familiar jokes. Unlike some comedy theatre productions where actors strive to outshine one another, the cast of The Broons work together as a team and everyone takes their turn to step into the limelight. No one is overshadowed and the audience is able to relax and enjoy the performance. Never clichéd or melodramatic, the actors strike the right balance between the exaggerated comic style of the cartoons that inspired this production, while maintaining a measure of grounded gravity. Indeed, there are darker moments and underlying issues that balance the lighter comic episodes, from Maw’s concerns about keeping her family together to her children’s anxieties about their future.
Moreover, all of the cast are incredibly adept musicians and singers. A plethora of instruments is brought on stage, from saxophones to bagpipes, from guitars to accordions. The cast uses the musical episodes to cleverly transition between scene changes that might otherwise have appeared clunky and disjointed off the page. Often changing the lyrics to suit their own ends, the musical episodes further heighten the comedic action. Whether it’s a rendition of Caledonia, a Rod Stewart or Proclaimers number, the musical choices strike a note with the Scottish theatregoers and reinforce the Scottishness of the Broons themselves. Moreover, the musical arrangement also has a Scottish tone and particularly clever instrumental choices, such as the accordion, really suit the Scottish context.
Often the unsung heroes of many a play, production and design play a key role in the success of The Broons, and their contribution should not be underestimated. The use of the original cartoon illustrations to frame the stage, decorate the wings and even to set the scene pays tribute to the origins in comic strip format. Most impressive is the use of giant letters, which not only spell out ‘The Broons’, but also serve as huge stage props, morphing into a whole variety of objects from bunk beds to cars. In particular, the scene where the Broons are in their respective ‘bedrooms’ is a feat of lighting, sound and stage design, where the overall effect is very slick and very impressive.
Whether you’ve been reading the comics since 1936 or have yet to meet this eccentric family, this production will inspire you to laugh, sing and hope that this is not the last we have seen of The Broons on the stage.
Runs until 5 November 2016 | Image: Contributed