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Casablanca – the Gin Joint Cut

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
The timeless allure of the ultimate big-screen romance was plain to see
when Morag Fullarton's contracted stage version appeared as part of
Oran Mor's lunchtime Classic Cuts season in 2010. This speedy revival
may have upgraded things for the night-time set with nary a pie in
sight, but Fullarton's supreme grasp of populist theatre sensibilities
remain undimmed in a glorious three-actor affair which in lesser hands
might have merely ended up as one great big daft industry in-joke.

There are elements of this, of course, particularly in the newly added
B-movie homage to westerns, an extended fifteen-minute sketch that
somehow manages to shoehorn the Marx Brothers into the rootin',
tootin', sharpshootin' fun. It's the main feature, however, that fully
delights, as we're whisked off to Rick's bar, where worlds collide and
old flames linger in a cut-price no-man's land of scarlet drapes,
silver-sashed doorways and low-lit lamps that appear sepia-tinged.

The fun of all this is watching the miked-up onstage trio work overtime
to play the film's cast of thousands. Jimmy Chisholm nails the pop-eyed
menace of Peter Lorre as he changes hats and accents with abandon,
while Claire Waugh flits from a Nazi more kinkily akin to Charlotte
Rampling in The Night Porter to the still lovelorn Ilsa in an instant.

It's Gavin Mitchell's gloriously studied resemblance to Humphrey Bogart
that captivates, however, both when Fullarton's production is playing
it for laughs and in the series of genuinely tear-jerking encounters
between Rick and Ilsa that punctuate the show's moral heart in an
otherwise affectionately cheeky affair. Watch out too for piano player
Sam, who'll probably never quite play it the same again.

The Herald, July 14th 2011



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