Kill Johnny Glendenning Royal lyceum

Thank you Lyceum - this is just what we all need after a seemingly never-ending referendum campaign – a good laugh. From start to finish this is a fast and furious black comedy which had the audience snorting and guffawing throughout. It’s a serious theme – how the seedy and violent underworld of Glasgow gangland with its links to ultra-loyalist thuggery fascinates the media and the public. Our appetite for TV shows, books and films about gangsters lends an undeserved glamour and legitimacy to these unsavoury individuals and their nefarious activities. Maybe we don’t quite want to believe what is hidden just below the surface in our cities and prefer to see it all as a fiction, or something happening somewhere in a world far removed from our own. The truth is somewhat different and gangsters such as those MacPherson represents run legitimate businesses and own flats in the West End - they could even, Heaven forbid, be your next door neighbour.

The first act takes place in a rundown filthy farm somewhere in Ayrshire where we meet Dominic (Philip Cairns) and Skootch (Josh Whitelaw), a couple of MacPherson’s hapless hoods, who have kidnapped writer and journalist Bruce and are now awaiting the arrival of their boss. The farm is home to Auld Jim and his bedridden mother and a herd of pigs which conveniently dispose of MacPherson’s victims. Kern Falconer is excellent as the eccentric backwoodsman Jim and gets the biggest laughs of the show simply by brewing a cup of tea – you have to see it to understand what I mean. The language and the humour are not for the faint hearted and, like Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction there are some pretty shocking and violent scenes but the comedy is never far away. The dialogue is funny and fast paced and you need to listen intently to savour it all and pick up all the clues.

The plot revolves around Johnny Glendinning (David Ireland), a former Ulster terrorist who has “retired” to Scotland to escape retribution back home. He has been stitched up in a drug deal by MacPherson (Paul Samson) and is now seeking revenge on him and on the tabloid journalist he thinks has also done the dirty on him. Cue a madcap farce with lots of guns, bodies and mobile phone calls – the significance of the latter only revealed in Act 2. Here we flashback to a flat in the West End and the events of a few hours before. We meet Kimberley, MacPherson’s niece and married to Dominic, and the full glory of the plot is gradually revealed. The cast were all superb and received a resounding cheer at the end from a clearly delighted audience.

Scottish playwright DC Jackson’s previous work includes My Romantic History which won a Scotsman Fringe First Award in 2010, Channel 4’s popular student comedy Fresh Meat, as well as an acclaimed adaptation for the Lyceum of Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro. Kill Johnny Glendenning is a co-production between the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh and the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow – and I suspect we will be needing plenty more successful collaborations like this between the two cities post referendum.

Irene Brownlee