BWW Review: OOR WULLIE, Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Much-loved comic strip character Oor Wullie turns 84 this year and what better way to celebrate than with a brand new musical? Selladoor Productions and Dundee Rep have adapted Oor Wullie for the stage with a production that breathes new life into our spikey haired hero.
As is a traditional storyline in the original comic strip- Wullie's lost his bucket! Expanding the plot slightly for the stage, this time Wullie is bursting out of the pages of the annual and leaving Auchenshoogle behind to try and find his bucket in modern day Scotland- with the help of his new friend Wahid.
Wahid is a young Scottish boy whose family moved to Scotland from Pakistan and he is tired of being asked where he is 'really' from. Nicknamed 'bawheid' by the bullies at school, he spends his lunchtime hiding in the library from his classmates. George Drennan plays a variety of characters including the librarian Dudley, who is based on Wullie's original artist Dudley D Watkins which is a very sweet touch. Dudley hands Wahid a comic book about a dungaree-wearing cheeky chappie and Wahid struggles to read the dialect- enforcing feelings that he doesn't quite belong here. That is, until Wullie recruits him for a night of mischief.
What makes this musical so special is the way they've managed to make it completely modern, inclusive and diverse but with so much nostalgia for the original characters and story. All the original gang are present- Bob, Wee Eck, Soapy Soutar, Primrose, Basher McKenzie, PC Murdoch and of course- Maw and Paw. At its heart, Oor Wullie is a story about friendship and acceptance but it manages to avoid becoming too sickly sweet.
The cast are exceptional and switch between multiple roles throughout. I couldn't imagine a more perfect Wullie than Martin Quinn who has his cheek and charm down to a tee. Basher McKenzie has been gender swapped for the production and Leanne Traynor is the ideal villain for this show.
The music and lyrics are provided by Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie and it has been a very long time since I've left a brand new musical with the songs stuck in my head. 'Help Ma Boab' is a particular favourite as Wullie sings a funny yet touching song to his pal of 80 years, his bucket. The language is brilliant and the story is narrated in well-crafted Scots rhyme.
It's often said that a show like this is great for all the family but I can't stress enough how true that is in this case. The story is fresh, funny and works well as a stand alone but is bursting with nostalgia for fans of Oor Wullie and will delight audiences of all ages. He really and truly is a'body's Wullie.
Oor Wullie is at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow until 25 January and on tour around Scotland.