In the second floor of a pub off Grassmarket, a sweaty singer belts out peculiar variations on show tunes from Oliver! This is Oliver Pissed, as presented by The Sensational Alex Salmond Gastric Band. It is a reworking of Lionel Bart’s version of Dickens’ classic, varying from the original in many ways – chiefly that Oliver has become a down-and-out due to the recent act of parliament raising the minimum price of alcohol.
It is a pretty shonky premise and the execution is equally haphazard. In essence, Tom McKay (the sole member of the Gastric Band) has a bunch of songs written and if he can work them in as part of his stated theme then so be it – if not then he is not worried. The patter that links numbers is vaguely comic, but not wildly so. The vibe is casual and a wee bit silly: McKay copes well with latecomers and he has a good hat. He is a strong, if not beautiful, singer and his songs shift between parodies of regular pop songs and simple tunes in which he lampoons current Scottish issues. The price of booze, the faults of the Tories, and the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo all get a bit of stage time – and the crowd enjoys it all. The songs are not exact re-workings of Oliver! tunes per se, but they remain recognizable and normally play on the lyrics of the first couplet or two.
It is a warm and rowdy evening, playing mostly to a local crowd. In terms of content he is very Scotland focussed - this show is part of the Scottish Comedy Festival. I am not a local and think I would have enjoyed the set as a whole more if I had greater connection with the material. However, I do have a penchant for comedy songs and this was enough to keep me entertained for the hour.