“A performance of grotesque delights”
This is a rollicking and roiling mix. The Russo family grew up with Fritto Misto and Potato Croquettes but it has all gone belly up since then. Their chip shop closed two months ago and perky Cammy is scraping a living out of his old burger van. There is no De’Longhi Deep Fryer on the worktop, just a hazardous barrel drum of cooking oil downstage right. Halfway to tragic maybe, but I took my seat to the whooping sound of Slade’s Mama Weer All Crazee Now, which (looking back) is one lurid invitation to excess. “Don’t stop now a c-‘mon” is what happens next and it’s flammable fun.
Writer Douglas Maxwell has lifted Roberto Cossa’s La Nona from Buenos Aires in 1977 and puts it down in Glasgow in the exact same year. Cue the glam soundtrack of the late 70s with Mrs Thatcher warming up and set that against the dismal fortunes of famiglia Russo; not that dizzy Marissa (20) knows any Italian beyond “Ciao” but at least she’s bringing home some cash. Best not ask what her boyfriend is selling to the kids in the high rise flats. Her uncle Charlie is definitely not making it as a composer, although his aunty Angela has high hopes for him. She hears his bedsprings squeaking rhythmically at night, you understand. Marie, Cammy’s wife and Marissa’s mother, is keeping the home together but is screaming inside, not least when the Bay City Rollers are playing Money Honey. And that leaves Nana, 100 years old, a metre wide, and yer granny at the maw of Hell. Against Nana, no jar of mayonnaise is safe, no food bank secure.
Gregor Fisher, as Nana, puts in a performance of grotesque delights. He growls Glaswegian gobbets, waddles athletically, and reaches for the digestives behind the clock with unflinching courage. The audience actually feels for the old glutton as she balances on the step stool. The family chippy was ‘The Minerva’ but that didn’t last. Nana is the awful immortal here. Invoke her, if you dare, by calling out “Anymare?” Ironic that the Romans got around to seeing Nemesis, aka Nana, as the maiden goddess of proportion.
Considerable credit therefore to Maxwell’s adaptation and to Graham McLaren’s direction for ensuring that Nana does not swallow the whole play. Cammy (Jonathan Watson) gives us two hilarious spiels of HM the Queen in his shop – reopened for business. He’s a proud Unionist is our Cammy but still manages to tell the sovereign to bugger off. She, for good measure, calls him a fanny. By contrast, Maureen Beattie is serene and strong as Marie and would save them all if only her good sense got the respect it deserved. Unfortunately that’s unlikely to begin with and downright impossible when sensitive brother-in-law Charlie (Paul Riley) has a mad and smutty idea. Enter very slowly rival fish bar owner Donnie Francisco (Brian Pettifer) halfway through the second act who, together with Barbara Rafferty’s amphetamine addled Angela, creates category one scatological bedlam. Suddenly poor, obliging Marissa (a great turn by Louise McCarthy) has a lot on her plate too. Never, ever, will chips and cheese pass my mouth and the wonderful Singing Kettle’s You Cannae Shove Yer Granny Aff a Bus has all gone to pot.
My favourite (after Susi Quatro)? Donnie’s ‘It’s no that I dinae go fur older women … Mrs Robertsons (sic)? I love a Mrs Robertson so I dae. But surely to Christ there’s an upper limit on Robertsons?’
I enjoy eating at Nonna’s Kitchen on Morningside Road but that’s nothing to what Yer Granny serves up of West Kilbride. This National Theatre of Scotland production is a feast of Scottish comedy: clever and exquisitely tasteless.
Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 2 June)
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