When I was wee, one of the highlights of Christmas for me was raking in the bottom of my pillow case for my shiny tartan clad Christmas annual – Oor Wullie one year, the Broons the next. I have to admit, my personal favourite was the Broons. There’s something nice about the idea of a big family who always look out for one another.
I always looked forward to finding out what adventures they’d been up to and what scrapes the family had rescued Granpaw from. So when Rhona asked me if I’d like to review DC Thomson’s ‘The Broons’ Stage Play at Perth Concert Hall, I jumped at the chance!
I took my friend Sharon along with me and to start the evening off, we went to Cafe Kisa for a wee pre-show tea. In true Broons style, I had the fish’n’chips although mine came on a proper plate and not in a DC Thomson newspaper! As usual, it was braw and set us up nicely for the show.
The play opens with a nostalgic comic book style set with Maw Broon (Roisin from River City!) preparing for the yearly Broons ‘photae’. The scene pays homage to the 80 year anniversary of the Broons comic strip which first started off back in 1936 with a family photograph. Maw talks poignantly about family, making references to the anniversary in the form of anecdotes about family members who are celebrating their wedding anniversary.
Of course, there quickly ensues the usual debachle while the Broons get lined up and no sooner has Maw got her family in order than Maggie drops her bombshell - she’s getting married (much to Maw’s dismay!). Maggie’s announcement leads the family to speculate about what they are doing with their lives, which forms the plot for the rest of the show.
Hen and Daphne are both frustrated by their non-existent love lives. Hen expresses his frustration (in a brilliant John Cleese-esque style) at being viewed as the retriever of objects on high shelves while Daphne’s sick to the back teeth of being seen as someone who ‘canny get a man’. The play portrays the Broons in the traditional format that we know and love but also manages to move with the times.
Daphne’s signed up to the dating app ‘Lumber’ and Granpaw’s got a profile on social media app ‘Coupon Book’ which he’s using to try to trace ‘Auntie Janice’ who he fell out with years ago over a bottle of whisky. Janice is the last link to Granpaw’s wife Jeannie who died 20 years ago and who he reminisces about throughout the show.
The production cleverly manages to poke fun at the fact the Broons haven’t aged, despite the 80 year anniversary. Hen (who thinks he’s about 40 but isn’t sure) is thinking about back-packing around Australia. Joe wants to make it as a boxer but is infuriated by his brother’s jibes that he couldn’t fight sleep and his only role in life seems to be to go on double dates and ‘pinch Hen’s birds’.
Meanwhile, Horace, the clever one, is applying to be an astronaut. The twins, who are up to their usual capers and the bairn, the peacekeeper (and narrator), have reason to question their identity since we don’t even know their names – we still don’t!
With everyone re-evaluating their lives, Maw worries that her family is falling apart at the seams and interferes in a desperate bid to keep the Broons together. This leads to secret meetings with Paw’s brother Sandy, who we learn that she previously dated before she went out with Paw. Of course, Paw gets wind of Maw’s shenanigans and gets the wrong end of the stick leading Maw and Paw to question whether they both got what they really wanted out of life.
Despite all the soul-searching, there is a lot of light hearted humour throughout the show interspersed with much singing and dancing. Maw Broon does a fabulous rendition of ‘Patience of Angels’ by Eddie Reader which manages to be both touching and hilarious at the same time and there is a fabulous uplifting medley at the end with numbers from various Scottish artists (Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Dougie McLean, The Proclaimers etc) which gets the audience singing along.
The Broons get up to their usual escapades along the way with a trip to the But’n’Ben and a stramash with a runaway coo. Hen gets Horace to sign him up with a ‘Lumber’ account leading on to the usual mix ups and miscommunications that we’ve come to expect from the Glebe Street bunch.
Daphne ends up dating the hot new actor from ‘River Toon’ leading to a hilarious send up of River City – it’s as if Roisin never left! In fact, several cast members have done stints on the Scottish soap as well as other Scottish shows. You might recognise Paw who’s played by Paul Riley of Chewing the fat and Still game fame (the accent is unmistakeable).
Also worth a mention in their own right are Granpaw and Paw’s facial adornments, with Paw managing to incorporate a mouser malfunction into the plot which only added to the humour. Paw plays several other parts too with some very quick turn-around costume changes!
It’s not only Paw who assumes other roles. Several of the cast members play dual roles. We meet ‘The Meenister’, a cantankerous auld crater but easily buttered up with a scone and Maw’s bramble jam and we see the re-appearance of Maggie’s mulleted ex-fiancé, Dave Mackay (not the one who captained St Johnstone to Scottish cup glory!) We also meet several relatives on Paw’s side – some of the women even sport the family mouser!
There were also a couple of guest appearances, Oor Wullie, who was looking for his bucket (I think it was auctioned off Wullie!) and Susan Boyle who made a brief appearance on stage before taking her seat in the audience right behind me (she kindly agreed to a wee selfie!). All in all, it was a braw nicht!
Without giving too much away, everything gets ironed out at Maggie’s wedding – but will she get married or not? Jings, Crivvens, Help Ma Boab! You’ll need to go and see the show to find out.