Theatre: Moving musical will lift you higher than the sun

Crocodile Rock tells the story of a young man, played by River City’s Darren Brownlie, who grows up on a Scottish island and comes to realise he’s a bit different
Crocodile Rock tells the story of a young man, played by River City’s Darren Brownlie, who grows up on a Scottish island and comes to realise he’s a bit different

LOOK, you owe it to yourself. Seriously. What do you have to look forward to in the next couple of weeks? Trying to watch a movie on your phone as you sit on an airport floor waiting for a flight to be cancelled yet again?

Working out how many more Boris letters the 1922 committee has to receive before he’s toast?

Exactly. So, what you need to do is take yourself along to Cumbernauld Theatre and watch Crocodile Rock.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with Elton John’s 1972 hit, although there is a piece of shared experience with the life of the Rocketman and the storyteller in Andy McGregor’s play.

Crocodile Rock tells the story of Stephen McPhail, who grows up on an island on the west coast of Scotland and comes to realise he’s a bit different. It’s only when a new boy, Henry Thomas, moves to the island that Stephen has feelings he’s never experienced before.

But when Stephen kisses Henry it produces the sort of reaction you’d expect if Love Island were to be cancelled.

However, the Millport Music Festival changes Stephen’s life. A Brazilian Hammond organ player, Vincente Miguel, a Quentin Crisp for modern times, turns up and Stephen can’t quite believe what he sees.

One night, Stephen gets really curious about him, sneaks into his changing room and tries on his make-up.

Vincente catches him in the act but is totally understanding. ‘You don’t need to be scared of who you are.’

Which is all very well for Vincente to say. Stephen still can’t quite come to terms with the fact he is gay.

And he has to tell his parents, not only that he is he gay but that he likes to entertain by doing female impersonations.

The play then takes us into the darkness. Stephen’s dad can’t come to terms with his son’s life. And he had him lined up to take over the family pub.

What does Stephen do from this point? The musical theatre tale highlights the sense of desperate isolation. It examines the searing sense of social exclusion.

It looks at gender stereotypes and bullying. But it focuses mostly on the relationship that young gay people have with their families. When do you tell your parents that you have same sex feelings?

How much is the potential trauma compounded when you reveal you have a dream of becoming a drag artist?

Besides a moving storyline and some great songs, what this show offers to the public is the chance to see Darren Brownlie’s tour de force performance.

Brownlie, who starred in the Glasgow King’s Theatre Cinderella panto this year as Dandini, has comedy bones running through his body. But the former dancer, from Paisley, can also take a dark moment and knock it out of the park.

And he can sing. So, for one night, forget we’re £3.5 billion in the grubber, push aside the summer of discontent and strikes.

Give the quite brilliant Brownlie the chance to sell you a story that lifts higher than rockets.

And for at least one night, don’t feel the fear for what’s about to become us. Great theatre can do that for us.

Crocodile Rock, Lanternhouse, from today until June 12.

Come on ye Saints!

WHAT also lifts the theatre hearts is a love story. An unbridled, unswerving story of a commitment like no other.

Think Romeo and Juliet. Tony and Maria. Satine and Christian.

Now, there’s a chance to witness the passion between Bobby and St Johnstone.

Bobby loves St Johnstone like he loves life itself. Only more.

It’s been with him since his first trip to McDiarmid Park aged just eight days old, (although he wasn’t overly aware of it at the time), and he says it will stay with him until he’s laid in his blue and white coffin.

But such is his desire to win, Bobby becomes afraid that, somehow, he is the reason the team continues to lose.

His existentialist crises and despair have somehow infected the thing he loves most in life.

This is a play about what it means to be committed to your local football team.

It’s about a way of life, it’s about a habit that becomes part of one’s very being.

Told through the eyes of fans like Bobby, and the guy who almost missed Ando’s clinching goal because he was busy getting a pie, Martin McCormick’s play explains what St Johnstone means to the people of Perthshire.

The writer understands implicitly what makes great theatre, and as such it will be funny, serious and heartfelt.

And the St Johnstone story in itself offers a dream ending.

The cast includes Colin McCredie, Tom McGovern, Lorna Craig and Greer Montgomery.

Oh When The Saints, Perth Theatre, until June 18.