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Bingo! review at Assembly Hall, Edinburgh – ‘hilarious and macabre’

Scene from Bingo! at Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic Scene from Bingo! at Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
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Musical Theatre has its fair share of bloody moments, what with its man-eating plants and demon barbers. Now writers Anita Vettesse and Johnny McKnight take it up a level with a show that is both hilarious and gruesome in equal measure.

As a celebration of a national pastime, Bingo! delivers. The plot of this co-production between leading Scottish theatre companies Grid Iron and Stellar Quines, concerns bingo caller Betty’s impending hen do in Las Vegas. The regular Thursday night crowd are all going with her, thanks to travel agent Danielle, and this is their final session before the off.

Director Jemima Levick brings out the best of a tight-knit cast, quickly establishing the community of players – Louise McCarthy’s brazen Danielle, Wendy Seager as her pinch-faced ma, Mary, and Jo Freer as her best pal, new mother Ruth. Darren Brownlie and Jane McCarry provide comic weight as bingo hall workers Donny and Betty.

AIan Penman’s score consists mostly of big musical theatre numbers that the cast belt out. There are occasionally more introspective moments, notably when Mary has a moment of regret.

The arrival of Barbara Rafferty as Joanna, kicked out by a philandering husband, jolts the whole show into a different gear. Suddenly it shifts into something surreal, macabre – a thing of delicious bad taste. The show is owned by Rafferty. Her performance is as audacious as it is over-the-top.

There are moments when Levick allows the comedy to become a bit too broad and the piece at times seems to struggle with its form, but when it comes to addressing issues of poverty and community, there’s a sharpness under the surface glitz.


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