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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Theatre review: Kill Johnny Glendenning

Published in the Guardian
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
Three stars

ONE of last year’s biggest Scottish theatre hits was David Harrower’s Ciara, a monologue about a woman born into a Glasgow crime family and doing all she can to get out. With Kill Johnny Glendenning, playwright DC Jackson is in similar territory, only this time he plays it as farce. Where Harrower gave us a subtle meditation on the difficulty of cultural change, Jackson offers a Tarantino-esque bloodbath of violent excess and a script of machine-gun hilarity.
Set in a farmhouse hideaway – or, as Jackson’s colourful turn of phrase would have it, a “sub-human shit-shack in the anus of Ayrshire” – the play is about the kidnapping of an investigative reporter caught up in a gangland feud over the proceeds of a heroin shipment. In the flashback second act, which cleverly gives us the motivations behind the seemingly random killings of the first, we learn that one of the kidnappers is married to the mob. His wife, like Harrower’s Ciara, is determined to get out.
The world she’s escaping is one of cartoonish bravado, shaped by the romantic glamour of the gangster movie and the mystique of the celebrity criminal. One of the kidnappers wears a suit inspired by Al Pacino in Scarface, while the rival crime bosses boast of the number of books written about them.
Like the others in Mark Thomson’s full-blooded production, David Ireland gives a scarily funny performance. As the eponymous lead, he always carries an air of psychopathic menace (despite Johnny’s love of reggae stalwarts Aswad). I laughed a lot, but kept feeling the play was only ever as good as the last joke. Despite its echoes of Glasgow’s real-life ice-cream wars, Jackson’s comic universe has more murderous exuberance than satirical bite.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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