‘Oor Wullie! Your Wullie! A’Body’s Wullie!’ is the tagline for this lighthearted romp from Dundee Rep that has taken reign at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre. The eponymous Wullie is a icon not just in Scottish entertainment, but in Scottish hearts, and those in the audience who had those, and others besides, were certainly won over.
When I first heard of the concept of an Oor Wullie musical, I knew immediately I had to see it. Oor Wullie punctuated (as I’m sure it did with many others) my Scottish childhood, with annuals stacked on the coffee table amongst The Broons. While I struggled with the language, Wullie has become a universal symbol for Scottish childhood through generations.
In this modern uptake, we are first introduced to the main character, Wahid, (Eklovey Kashyap) who is Scottish-born but from Pakistani parentage. In the unnamed Scottish town we find ourselves in, this is enough reason for him to be an outcast amongst the other schoolchildren. He seeks refuge in his school’s library, where the kindly librarian (George Drennan) lends him an Oor Wullie manual. A dimension-shifting adventure ensues when Wullie (played hilariously by Martin Quinn) emerges from the manual, along with the madhap characters of Fat Boab (Dan Buckley), Wee Eck (Grant McIntyre), Soapy Soutar (Bailey Newsome), Primrose (Leah Byrne), PC Murdoch (Ann Louise Ross) treacherous bully Basher McKenzie (Leanne Traynor), and multi-roler Irene Macdougall.
The show manages to stay dutifully dedicated to the original canon, while still adding modern embellishments. Mentions of vegan sausage roll from Greggs amongst the classic mince and tatties are happily received, and the whole show calls attention to a topic that is certainly relevant in our Brexit-saturated world- that of Scottish identity, and what exactly it means. Certainly, Wahid is accepted wholeheartedly by Wullie and his gang, with any misunderstanding between them coming from Wahid’s struggle to grasp the Scots language (a trouble for many).
The music is catchy, poppy, and fun – particular highlights are a bhangra-inspired dance routine taking place in Wahid’s mother’s clothing shop, in which all of the Auchenshoogle boys get dressed up in saris in order to sneak through the town unnoticed; and Wullie’s 11 o’clock number in Act 2, where he laments the loss of his bucket with the help of pet mouse Jeemie. The set is colorful and clever, with switches from a school library to Wahid’s bedroom to a street in Auchenshoogle happening seamlessly.
At some points the show does come across as slightly pantominey, it is dutifully self-aware, with plenty of fourth-wall breaks and references to other shows (see the Wullie Wagon’s number which echoes of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). For every cartoony scene in which the gang attempt to escape PC Murdoch, there is a blue joke for the benefit of the older generations in the audience. It is an excellent, easy choice for all ages and will certainly warm any Scottish (or other) hearts in the crowd.
PHOTOS: Capital Theatres
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