Bingo! A new Musical Comedy! Assembly Hall Edinburgh, Review:
**** 4 Stars
“Bingo! Nearly A Full House!”
Its Fitting on International Women’s Day, a new co production from Grid Iron and Stellar Quines makes its premier in Edinburgh’s Assembly Hall. With Book and Lyrics by Anita Vitesse and Johnny McKnight, Bingo! Tells the story of a night in a west coast bingo hall, a evening that is mirrored across Scotland where for many women, hopes and dreams are invested in the pursuit of that one big cash windfall that will change everything.
This comedy musical that magnificently weaves into almost kitchen sink drama in the second act blends those hopes with laughter, loyalty, friendship and above all else love to produce an evening of theatre that truly challenges the audience.
Women take centre stage with 5 of the 6 cast being female with Jo Freer giving an all too real portrayal of a woman who gives everything for the husband and child while dreaming of better things which is imbued into her character of “Ruth” its acting of the highest calibre. Jane McGarry, she of still game fame, turns in a often touching performance as “Betty” and leaves the viewer believing in a woman who works hard for all the right reasons. Louise McCarthy turns in a sensational performance as Daniella, crafted to be the villain of the show, her’s is an all to real story of a woman who works hard for a tiny pay and taken for granted she loses faith in not only her dreams, but all sense of hope, it’s an inspiring performance.
Rounding out the female company is Scottish legend Barbara Rafferty in the role of “Joanna” who is simply sensational in Act 1 showing what playing a woman scorned is all about, she has been there, done it and seen it all and it truly shows in this award-winning performance. The greatest story arc of the show goes to Wendy Seager in the role of “Mary” the mother who crutches on her daughter due to loss of her husband but comes to realise she needs to make her own way in the world whilst encouraging her daughter to live her life on her own terms.
This production does have a deft comedy touch with a mixture of pathos that comes from the Scottish pantheon that begave us “The Steamie” and “Parras across the Barras” among so many others and observational comedy. Sadly where the production doesn’t shine is the inclusion of Darren Brownlie’s character “Donny”, although Brownlie performs the character well, “Donny” is once more a gay man that reinforces a redundant and at times hurtful Stereotype that harks back to the 70’s, theatre has moved on from this kind of character and in the real world straight men actually do work in Bingo Halls. Its unclear whether it’s a writer’s choice or director Jemima Levick’s decision to precipitate the inclusion of the character in this manner but so much more could have been achieved with “Donny” whilst remaining a comedy force with in the show.
All that being said, theatre is by its creation designed to entertain, thrill and challenge us and “Bingo” steps up to the mark in a big way, with clever and witty direction from Levick, a wonderful catchy score from the shows Musical Director Alan Penman, its truly a celebration of women at its heart and one which has to be seen to be enjoyed with or without stereotypes, so grab your dabbers and head along to the bingo hall for big laughs and touching moments galore, truly Scottish theatre at its best.
Grid Iron theatre productions and Stellar Quines theatre company Present “Bingo! A New Comedy Musical” for tickets in Edinburgh go to https://www.assemblyfestival.com/hall/whats-on/bingo
The Production Runs until April 17th in Edinburgh will then tour to Stirling, Ayr, Musselburgh, Glasgow and Inverness for venue information go to https://www.stellarquines.com/productions/bingo-new-musical-comedy/