Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Bookie

Douglas Maxwell
Cumbernauld Theatre Company
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
(2010)

The Bookie publicity image

As it is a new writing theatre, visiting the Traverse can be a gamble; this musical, although it has been on tour around Scotland, is still very fresh and the audience are unsure what to expect at the beginning. It's just a wee production with three in the band, six in the cast and a compact little set. The band are slick, as are the cast in their smooth mostly black costumes, and the set with a few simple touches creates a suitably seedy backdrop.

Jonathan Queen, a tycoon who runs a betting shop chain, returns to his home town of Quarry with his daughter Pepsi to set up a casino and also to attend his brother's funeral. It's a highly contrived plot, which revolves around a bet on true love happening in Quarry by Valentine's Day. Being a musical though, it kind of gets away with this cheesiness.

Queen's betting shop in Quarry is run by an outrageously over-the-top gay guy, but he is such a witty, cute character that he pulls it off, who has started placing 'happy bets' to cheer people in Quarry up. Queen's brother in his will left a happy bet on true love to his niece Pepsi who stands to win half a million pounds and damage her father's business.

The small cast belt out the songs and some of them are quite touching. The characters, though exaggerated, are funny and you do warm to them, even the tycoon Queen who, of course, is on the side of good by the end. He also has a strong voice and his solos are terrific.

It is a ridiculous fantasy of a plot and in its conception too, with the dead brother's ghost popping up everywhere and random dream sequences. In the end, though, it is a winning combination and a happy bet that triumphs against the odds.

Until 16th October

Reviewer: Seth Ewin