Yer Granny

Having enjoyed a relatively carefree childhood and colourful teenage youth during the 1970s, I’m often still annoyed by the apparent cultural consensus which dismisses those years as “the decade that taste forgot”. That’s perhaps why, from the start, Douglas Maxwell’s deliberately crude West Coast of Scotland re-imagining of Roberto Cossa’s La Nona – still, apparently, the most popular play in Argentinia – struck me as being just too brutally unsubtle for its own good.

Not that there isn’t much to praise: this is a rare opportunity to see many of Scotland’s finest comedy actors together.

Not that there isn’t much to praise: this is a rare opportunity to see many of Scotland’s finest comedy actors together. Significantly, each is rewarded with at least one opportunity to shine on stage: Barbara Rafferty excels as gentile Aunt Angela, not least when she’s in a drug-induced frenzy, while Brian Pettifer revels in his belated appearance as decrepit, octogenarian lothario Donnie Francisco. Jonathan Watson, as the stressed-out patriarch Cammy, initially appears to be the calm centre around whom everyone else revolves, but he soon reveals too much of his inner self-loathing during soliloquies imagining conversations with HRH The Queen.

And, of course, there’s Gregor Fisher as the titular Granny, an unrelentingly repulsive figure who doesn’t say much but remains the focus of attention whenever on stage. This flat-footed devourer of stew, hidden cakes, fresh rolls and packets of crisps is the gnawing black hole at the heart of an increasingly deluded and dysfunctional family.

Maxwell has a great ear for Scottish patter, and gives the cast some cracking one-liners, but there’s just not enough going on to distract from the fundamental implausibility of the situation. Yes, the play’s main theme,of how poverty can debase the ties of family, is neatly encapsulated in a conclusion that’s more dark than comic, but the whole production nevertheless feels somewhat dated.

Not because it’s set in 1977: Maxwell and the cast have some fun riffing on “future” developments that are in the audience’s own past – “Chips ’n’Cheese!”, for example, will never quite mean the same thing again. Unfortunately, Maxwell simply doesn’t go anywhere far enough to question the 1970s’ gender politics on display, leaving the excellent Maureen Beattie (as beleaguered wife and mother Marie) and stunning newcomer Louise McCarthy (as “dumb blonde” daughter Marissa) with little room for manoeuvre.

Graham McLaren’s direction is tight, and the whole production, from the Glam Rock pre-show music to the audience’s exit to the sound of the Sex Pistols – a welcome reminder that 70s popular music didn’t actually stop in 1975 – has a thematic unity expressed most obviously in Colin Richmond’s hideously tacky set and costumes. Yer Granny is unapologetically populist, and will give many a great night out at the theatre but, as farces go, its a somewhat lumbering beast which requires its cast too obviously to push things on to where they need to be in order to land the next punchline. 

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The Blurb

Yer Granny is a riotous new comedy about a diabolical 100-year-old granny who’s literally eating her family out of house and home. She’s already eaten their fish and chip shop into bankruptcy and now she’s working her way through their kitchen cupboards, pushing the Russo family to desperate measures just to survive beyond 1977.

As proud head of the family, Cammy is determined that The Minerva Fish Bar will rise again and that family honour will be restored – and all in time for the Queen’s upcoming Jubilee visit. But before Cammy’s dream can come true and before Her Maj can pop in for a chat, a single sausage and a royal seal of approval, the family members must ask themselves how far they will go to solve a problem like Yer Granny.

Based on the smash-hit Argentinian comedy classic La Nona, in a new version by Douglas Maxwell and directed by Graham McLaren. The cast features some of Scotland’s best-loved performers, including Gregor Fisher in the title role, alongside Paul Riley (Still Game), Jonathan Watson (Only An Excuse?), Maureen Beattie (Casualty), Barbara Rafferty (Rab C Nesbitt), Brian Pettifer (The Musketeers) and Louise McCarthy (Mamma Mia!, West End).

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