Thursday, 19 November 2015

Ali Bawbag and the Four Dramaturgies: Gary McNair talks panto

Christmas Panto
Ali Bawbag and the Four Tealeafs
Mon, 30 November, 2015 — Wed, 23 December, 2015
By Dave Anderson and Gary McNair

Featuring Dave Anderson, George Drennan, Frances Thorburn and Anita Vettesse

Ali is a very poor man, with a brother who is wealthy. He also has a wife who looks, let’s face it, like a man. One day, Ali is in the woods – don’t ask – when he sees a (budget) band of robbers. 

The leader says a magic password and a boulder rolls away from a rock face. Ali discovers, after they’ve gone, a cave full of riches, and his life is never the same again. A strange tale unfolds, involving Ali’s greedy brother, his aspirational wife, the band of robbers, and more besides.

Drennan and trumpet
Òran Mór’s annual Christmas Panto for grown-up children has become a not to miss Festive Season comedy treat. Join us this December for Dave Anderson and Gary McNair’s irreverent take on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Boo, cheer and sing-along, Oh, yes you will!

How did you get involved in this PPP panto business?
Gary McNair: I’ve got a good relationship with the guys at PPP. I had my very first commission their with Crunch and I’ve gone on to write and direct several other pieces for them. I’m also a part of the group the DM collective, founded by David MacLennan,  we create political satire shows there every year or so. 

It was through this that I first got to work with the wonderful Dave Anderson, we’ve really got a lot out of working together on those shows and from there, he invited me in to collaborate with him on the writing process for the summer Panto which was a real honour and a great laugh so, thankfully, he’s asked me back along.  

Will you be performing in it? After all you’re known as a monologist who performs his own scripts.

Oh no I won’t! 

I know that I’m perhaps more known to people as someone who performs my own scripts, but I tend to only do that once a year and so I save performing for the projects that I feel are right for me to do or the stories that I feel that only I could tell. But for the rest of the year, I create shows for other people to perform, which I enjoy just as much as performing. I really love the art of writing. 

I love getting to craft a story and watching other people bring it to life. Also, I can’t sing for toffee so I wouldn’t unleash that agony on a paying public. 

Were you a panto fan growing up?
Not massively. But that’s only because I never really went to any. Our school didn’t do any panto trips as far as I remember so it never really got into my blood in the way that it has for other people. It was only in later years, and, actually it was through watching the panto’s at Oran Mor, that I realised that it’s such a brilliant medium for satire and social commentary which is right up my street. 

Show seems more aimed at adults is that a statement about panto’s potential as a more mature entertainment?
I guess it is a little more adult, yes. But not in a Jim Davidson way. Far from it. I think that, yes, panto has the potential to be mature entertainment, but I think that’s always the case. When you go and see the best ones like Johnny McKnight’s or Brian James’, for example, they’re working on multiple levels; the kids love it because it works for them but the adults are hooked in as well on big laughs that are perhaps going over the kids heads, kind of like the Simpsons in that manner.

Panto’s always have so many themes relevant to everyone; hardship suffered by the poor, greed versus good, the toppling of evil empires, I think if the show was particularly mature in anyway, I guess it would be that with the knowledge that it is a venue that has a more mature audience as well, we’re freed up a little more to push these themes more to the direct political reference to what’s going on the world and so we’re able ramp up the satire a little. It’s also very very silly. 

That’s the joy of writing it with Dave, his comic timing is exceptional and he has real integrity in his work too because he cares a great deal about the world. And it helps that we can have a bloody good swear into the bargain. 

Is the show set in Glasgow? Will there be familiar characters to those of us that hang around the west end?
It’s set in panto land, of course. But it is peculiar how similar panto land can be to Glasgow at times.
Gary in his previous Xmas show...

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