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Tutti Frutti

Kings Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
The conspiracy theories surrounding John Byrne’s seminal 1987 TV comedy drama suggesting it was mysteriously black-balled from repeat runs are whispered to have borne fruit. This is success in itself for The National Theatre Of Scotland’s stage version, which put Byrne’s tale of a faded Glasgow band’s Lazarus-like revival back into public consciousness via this inevitable runaway hit.

For the uninitiated, Tutti Frutti begins at the funeral of Big Jazza McGlone, erstwhile vocalist of The Majestics, who croaked his last following a kebab-shop calamity. Jazza’s prodigal brother Danny and his old art school flame Suzy are co-opted to fill the big man’s shoes for The Majestics 25th anniversary tour as organised by Eddie Clockarty and girl Friday Janice.

Cue a suitably clumpy but still exhilarating riot of rock n’ roll musical set-pieces that sometimes threaten to drown out the intellectual sharpness of Byrne’s machine-gun flyting and social observations. Because Tutti Frutti is now a brilliant period piece highlighting the mid-1980s tensions between old and new Glasgow and the domestic disparity between genders.

Tam Dean Burn’s doomed guitarist Vincent undergoes Richard 111-like intimations of disenfranchised manhood via wife Noreen and teenage girlfriend Glenna, Danny and Suzy indulge in three-minute heroics, and Eddie and Janice, hilariously played by John Ramage and Julie Wilson Nimmo, are the oddest of co-dependents.

Director Tony Cownie prefers the laugh every time, and while no-one would deny performers and audience alike a dancing-in-the-aisles finale, after such a dark slow burn of suicide, disaster and disappointment, to fudge on the TV version’s explosive ambiguity for an explicitly feel-good affair is a cop-out. There’s A-Wop-Boppa Loo-Bop aplenty, but the Wop-Bam Boom killer punch is lacking.

The Herald, April 16th 2007

ends

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