The Edinburgh Gang Show is the annual Scouting and girl-guiding variety show of singing, music-playing, dancing and comedy, which has now been happening since 1932, though Edinburgh’s first one was in 1960, with the girls first joining in 1967. Covid has affected the continuity of the Edinburgh Gang Show, and not just in the usual ways the arts and other sectors have seen. Three years are a great deal of time in terms of age groups: the usual five sixths of participants being veterans from previous years and one sixth newbies have been reversed, with 100 members being new and only 20 returning, and only 20% of the Junior gang having even seen a previous year’s show.
Reviewing the artistic endeavours of minors runs the risk of becoming a real-life, non-comedy version of Alfred Molina’s Children’s Theatre Critic in the Funny or Die sketch named after him. Whatever the undoubted glitz and glamour provided by the adult team’s stock of costumes and backdrops, and the Festival Theatre’s impressive stage and lighting capabilities, art at that age should be more about personal development, be it finding one’s self as a person or as an artist, and what one does at that age with friends and for mostly family shouldn’t be placed in a 4G atmosphere that might crush it before it flowers into what is supposed to be its final form.
With participants numbered in the hundreds, some are bound to shine brighter than others, either by exposure (group numbers by necessity should make everyone look uniform) or natural talent (with age and experience providing a natural advantage to some). Of all the routines, Charlotte Dickson, Honor Dobbie and Kirsty Funnell’s Alone worked best, the singers handling each part of their medley (Out Here On My Own from Fame, On My Own from Les Misérables and Celine Dion’s All By Myself) impressively and the three songs being packaged tight with an effectively funny conceit based around their common theme. Matthew Knowles and Lewis Boyd also handled their solo parts very well in Together, singing in turn Empty Chairs At Empty Tables from Les Misérables and Man Was Born To Be Free.
Some of the more ambitious pieces, such as Historical Moments, were less successful, not quite sustaining a narrative over several numbers. The altered version of We Didn’t Start The Fire started things off promisingly, but the unaltered Six (from… oh, what was the name of that musical…?) and Yes Sir I Can Boogie all but abandoned the Scottish History narrative, something the lamp-shading acknowledged without really justifying.
Overall, it was an impressive show in which the musicianship was the most consistently impressive element and with several star turns, with the comedy being probably the most hit-and-miss element. But such is the way with variety. It clearly showed a lot of work and dedication from both adults and minors, and one which, I am sure, can stand proudly in the 90-year tradition of the revue.
Reviewer: Oliver Giggins:
Reviewed: 2nd November 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★