THE last time I saw Still Game on stage was at the Brunton in Musselburgh, a theatre with a capacity of 300. That was in the late 1990s and now, after six television series, sundry seasonal specials and a seven-year hiatus, Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill have built up the pulling power to play a 21-night run at the Hydro in front of 12,000 people a time.
This is theatre on a scale I have never seen. It’s so big, I’m not even sure theatre is the right word for it. The stage is dominated by three giant screens showing a sophisticated live edit of the sitcom action below. Even in the posh seats, it feels more like being a studio audience.
With voices echoing, Gavin Mitchell’s Boaby the barman opens up at the Clansman in time for his regulars, while Sanjeev Kohli’s Navid sets out the value pies in the corner shop. The audience – or is it a rally? – roars its approval with every arrival, not least when everybody’s favourite geriatric jesters Jack and Victor finally show up in Jack’s front room.
So far so cosy, but then something extraordinary happens. Sensing the untheatrical nature of their own TV love-in, Kiernan and Hemphill move from self-referential jokes about the inadvisability of comeback gigs to a meta-theatrical discussion about the fourth wall. Before we know it, they’ve switched to direct audience address and full-on standup patter.
They transform the energy in the room and, although the show settles back into sitcom familiarity for a story about Jack giving a drunken, transatlantic, father-of-the-bride speech, the stakes have been raised. All it takes is for Jane McCarry’s rosy-cheeked Isa to drink some magic mushroom soup and the stage becomes a hallucinogenic Bollywood spectacular. It’s a thrilling end to Michael Hines’s production and a narrow theatrical victory.