Panto season has started early. The well-beloved cartoon in the Dundee-based Sunday Post, published by DC Thomson, started in 1936 and was drawn with consummate skill by Dudley D Watkins. This extra-large family – which seems ignorant of the work of Marie Stopes, architect for constructive birth control – consists of Granpaw (Santa lookalike), Paw (with a face like a miniature schnauzer), Maw (monobosom), and their progeny Daphne (ugly bridesmaid), Maggie (starlet), Hen (lankylonglegs), Joe (dude), Horace (bookworm), the Twins (Oor Wullie x 2) and the Bairn (Maggie from The Simpsons). They live up a close at 10 Glebe Street in anytown in Scotland. Well, maybe not the New Town.
It’s a world long gone and one which, in the years since its inception, the Broons’ has defied full updating. The show doesn’t claim to be a musical – it’s a comedy play with music. Another DC Thomson creation, Jackie, was a surprising triumph earlier this year when it was turned into a slick jukebox musical. Can the same magic be wrought with The Broons? The success of the show hinges on the gusto with which it is put together. The makers, Sell A Door theatre company, have been unable to resist pulling the family into the 21st-century, but have retained the absurd misunderstandings and mistaken identities that cause hilarious confusion.
There is original music (Claire McKenzie) and old upbeat favourites like the Bluebells’ Young at Heart and Lulu’s Eurovision winner Boom Bang a Bang. Pretty “party pants” Maggie (Kim Allan) is getting married and planning to move to America while her other siblings reveal that they want to leave home too. Brainy Horace (Euan Bennet) wants to be an astronaut, Joe (John Kielty) longs to return to the London boxing circuit and Hen (Tyler Collins) to travel to Australia to find himself. Maw (Joyce Falconer) is distraught.
The Broons offers an odd mix of the couthy and the current. There are dated references that will be lost on the younger generation. When lanky Hen does a hilarious version of the Twist it gives John Cleese’s Ministry of Funny Walks a run for its money. Meantime douce Daphne (Laura Szalecki) is searching for a man on the dating app Lumber. There is not enough money to pay for Maggie’s wedding, as the Bairn (a hilarious turn from Maureen Carr) acts as Greek chorus with cringeworthy rhyming couplets. There are just enough subplots to prevent things from getting dull. It’s a delightful, very funny show and as Scottish as black bun.
Director Andrew Panton pulls out all the stops. And despite Broonsworld being ludicrously outdated in a time of “blended” and fractured families the show had great warmth and is as daft as Daphne’s fashion sense.