out and about: dramatic license at atg’s glasgow theatres;

So most of you know me as a music writer, and it’s true that I spend more time and money thinking about it, playing it, purchasing it and seeing it live than is healthy for either my bank balance or my sanity. But what many of you probably don’t know is that my first loves weren’t rock or indie bands at all, but rather the songs that I learned to play on violin or sang in the school choir. When I was growing up, many of my favourite songs to sing along to were the ones from the musicals.

Lis as Annie, 1995

“She’s sitting playing pian-ah, he’s sitting paying a bill…”

And sometimes I even got to sing them out of my bedroom, in front of other people. Yes, that’s me with the hair in the photo above, playing Little Orphan Annie in 1995.

In recent months, even I have succumbed to the pressure of labelling what it is I do here at Last Year’s Girl. I’ve taken to describing it, very roughly, as a “culture and lifestyle blog” – which is all well and good, but “culture” is a very broad church and it would be nice to be able to take in a little more of it. Which is why, when ATG Tickets got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in working with them and maybe writing about some of their shows on the blog, I jumped at the chance.

ATG Tickets is part of the Ambassador Theatre Group, which is the UK’s biggest theatre group by number of seats and owns or manages 39 theatre venues across the UK: 12 in London’s West End and, more relevant for these purposes, the King’s Theatre and Theatre Royal in Glasgow and the Edinburgh Playhouse. If you grew up in the west of Scotland you may have been lucky enough to visit one of their venues at panto time – or you may have visited to see anything from drama to musicals to comedy to touring musicians. Both the King’s and Theatre Royal regularly play host to touring productions of some of London’s sellout shows, and in the past few years I have seen Tom Waits, Stewart Lee and some of my sister’s friends in an amateur production of Hairspray! tread the ATG boards.

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Last month, I was invited to a production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – a musical based on the 1988 Steve Martin/Michael Caine grifter comedy starring Michael Praed, Mark Benton and Noel from Hear’Say – at the King’s; preceded by an introduction to ATG over gin and canapés at the newly-opened rooftop bar at the Theatre Royal. The Theatre Royal is actually Glasgow’s oldest theatre: it first opened in 1867 with parts of the current building dating back to 1879 when it was rebuilt after a fire. The building is managed by ATG on behalf of Scottish Opera, which has owned the building since 1974 and continues to use it as its performance home.

Theatre Royal rooftop selfie

Peeking down into the main auditorium, Theatre Royal

Peeking down into the main auditorium

It was spitting lightly with rain on the night that I visited, but I still had a wander around the rooftop garden bar with my gin and tonic just so I could say that I did. Access isn’t limited to theatre attendees – indeed, the Theatre Royal has a dedicated events team which handles hiring for private and corporate events – and it made me wish we were getting a summer this year. It’s a beautiful venue for an after-work drink and I’d go so far as to say that there was nothing like it anywhere else in Glasgow.

After drinks, we were ushered into taxis for the trip down the road to the King’s – a journey which, with Glasgow’s pedestrian areas and one-way streets being what they are, probably took longer than the walk. Here I met my “plus two” for the evening – my mum and my godmother, who just happened to be visiting that day and many thanks ATG for letting me blag an extra ticket – and we took our seats for the show.

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While there, ATG gave us the classic theatre experience – a programme each, and an ice cream at half-time. I’d be lying if I said I was the biggest fan of the show – too many crude sex jokes, foreign accents exaggerated for comedy effect and ableist humour for my liking – but Carley Stenson, who played female lead Christine Colgate had some gorgeous costumes, and my godmother and I got a few good cackles in during the second half. And my mum got to chat up Noel from Hear’Say when he was selling his CDs in the foyer afterwards.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, King's Theatre, Glasgow

Regardless of the quality of the show itself, I had a great night with two of my favourite women and I’m really looking forward to making theatre-going a regular thing again. Next in the diary – Avenue Q at the King’s at the end of August!

By the way, if you’re reading this in London or the South East of England, ATG are running a Summer Saver promotion at the moment with tickets starting at £10. Or check out what else is coming up at the King’s Theatre, the Theatre Royal and the Edinburgh Playhouse.

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