Cumbernauld Theatre’s The Bookie is a bit of a misplaced gamble. Written by Douglas Maxwell and featuring a spirited cast of five actors, this redemptive musical places big bets without winning a worthwhile return.
Imagine, for a moment, that bookmakers were bound to accept bets on the personal probabilities of your own life, taking wagers not on sports but on hearts. A gambling addict has committed suicide, placing a £10,000 stake at 50-1 that a couple in the town will fall in love before Valentine’s Day, driving his benefactors to make emotional bets that they never knew they would wager.
The cast are worth a flutter, if unbalanced. Returning to the Citizen’s Theatre after his outstanding performance as Cassio in Othello last year, Phillip Cairns is charming as drunk turned good, Gillespie. Jamie McKillop’s fantastically camp Cheeksie is just enough stereotype and just enough irony to draw the wit from his character whilst Danielle Hogg throws away lines like worthless football coupons.
The Bookie would probably pay off as a straight comedy and without the frequent intrusion of Aly McRae’s wantonly glitzy song and dance numbers. Its lyrics grasp for profundity, drawing out the plot instead of propelling it and are at times delivered with schmaltzy American accents to match the rock and roll guitar flares of the onstage three piece band.
More of an accumulator than a sudden windfall, The Bookie builds casually on an underwhelming workshop of an opening act, saving itself from the knacker’s yard if not taking first place.