“A Lock and Load comedy with the safety Off”
How mental do you like your Glasgow? I say ‘your’ advisedly, as this play has barreled its way down the M8 in that distinct, uncompromising “Up yours!” way that makes Edinburgh appear po-faced. D C Jackson has written a lock and load comedy with the safety off. ‘Kill Johnny Glendenning’ is fast, almost ludicrous, and not a little gross.
Droll Weegie humour is too dark for Strathclyde noir. This explosive plot begins with a bang as Bruce Wilson, the crime writer of Glasgow’s ‘Daily Reporter’, is to be taken out of harm’s way before his scurrilous biography of loyalist para-military Johnny Glendenning catches up with him. However, Johnny’s solid and inescapable desire for revenge makes Bruce Wilson’s survival somewhat unlikely. In fact, Johnny G. has set his sights on more than one unlucky victim, as he also goes after Andrew MacPherson, a ‘businessman’, who has cocaine deals to finance. Unfortunately, MacPherson’s laddies, sheepish Dominic (Philip Cairns) and numpty dumpty Skootch (Josh Whitelaw), mess up from accidental start to blood soaked finish. Dominic’s wife, Kimberly (Joanne Thomson), is the surprising Lady Macbeth of the piece, albiet very pregnant one, and one well in tune with Leona Lewis’s ‘Bleeding Love’.
The action is as lurid as Skootch’s cream suit, modelled – of course – after Pacino’s in ‘Scarface’. Johnny is a dab hand at pulling teeth and at castration by combat knife. There is lots of gunfire and a maniacal stabbing. The first act, down on Auld John’s farm, ends with bodies being soaked in petrol. Normally in Ayrshire these poor souls would be fed to the pigs, but it is onto douce Hyndland, in Glasgow’s West End, for the second act and a marginally tidier, intelligent backstory.
David Ireland’s Johnny might be a headcase but he remains a neat act. His easy movement, trim beard, and smart banter make the killer look and sound almost companionable, but the mild Ulster accent is as unnerving as the tattoos. Paul Samson as MacPherson, whose respectability is a vicious lie, keeps his character closer to the edge. Bruce (Steven McNicoll) is the journalist with no conscience who suffers that nice, well-bred, immunity from actual violence until it happens to him. He wears carpet slippers to his sorry end. Kern Falconer as scarecrow Auld John is frighteningly at one with his pigs, as well as his scary mither up the ladder.
However, ‘Kill Johnny Glendenning’ is more than an unhinged caper. One read of the imaginative programme and a glance at the stage curtain for a lookalike Amazon listing of tales from Bar-L will tell you that Jackson and director Mark Thomson are firing off some cultural bullet points. Hard men and hard boys are the obvious target but you could easily add sectarian shite, corruption of the press, Glasgow itself and mobile phone apps to that list. An entertaining, close-range blast from ‘Yes’ land.
Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 20 September)
Visit Kill Johnny Glendenning’s homepage here.