Review: Battery Park (Tron Theatre)
Updated: Oct 16
A warts-and-all celebration of 90s Britpop
In the cycle of fashionable decades, it seems the '90s have been skipped over. We went straight from being obsessed with the '80s when Stranger Things was at its peak to glamorising the early two thousands with Y2K fashion. But writer and director Andy McGregor is determined to relive his own rock’n’roll youth, and so we have Battery Park. A dejected former musician is prompted by an eager university student to recount his glory days when he and his band Battery Park were on their way to stardom before it all turned sour just as they were about to make it big.
Photo Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic
If this sounds familiar, it probably is. Battery Park’s plot isn’t anything more than the rise-and-fall-in-the-music-world story we have all seen before, and it doesn’t pretend to be. It is worth seeing on the strength of its writing, but its real appeal is how it speaks to a local audience. Cheers and standing ovations demonstrate that audiences want to remember the glory days of King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and laugh at pretentious University of Glasgow students, and in a time when most of our entertainment comes from England and Hollywood why shouldn’t they? With the storming success of Eilidh Loan’s Moorcroft, there is a trend emerging where local relevance in both setting and dialect trumps original storytelling. And when the writing is as engaging and funny as this it is worth it to accept that trade and take the journey, no matter how familiar it may be.
But a show built for audiences to reminisce about their glory days has its caveats – here it is the treatment of women. To begin with, there are the female characters, particularly those played by Chloe-Ann Tyler. This is not to discredit Tyler, who has fun with the roles, but both her groupie girlfriend character and her curious, nay flirtatious, student character feel like male fantasies rather than considered complex characters. Then there is the way that the male characters talk about women, which is where Battery Park wants to have its cake and eat it. There are moments when the show caters to the blokes who miss the times when they could be openly young and laddish (often at the expense of the women in their company) and others where a man who makes a sexist comment is villainised or put in his place. The character responsible for putting men in their place is Robyn, played by Kim Allan, and as much as I loved her determination and no-nonsense attitude it doesn’t negate the way this show indulges a sexist sense of humour. Perhaps it stems from a loyalty to the times, to do justice to the way women were treated rather than fabricate a more equal society, but giving a nostalgic glow to the worst parts of that era leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Even so, the iffy attitudes towards women do not overwhelm the merits of the performance (unlike another recent music-themed production at the Tron I could mention), not least because the performances are so impressive. The gig aspects of the performance marry perfectly with the theatre aspects, and in no-one is that more obvious than Charlie West as drummer Biffy. He gives a nuanced performance to a character who in other hands could have been shallow comic relief, and he is an impressive drummer in his own right. Another standout is Tommy McGowan as Ed, whose layered performance is the key to the tenderness that underpins Battery Park’s melancholic ending. Ultimately what McGregor and the cast are selling with Battery Park is atmosphere – warts and all. But what they deliver in terms of writing and performance is a lot more than that. Four stars.
Whispers from the Crowd: "I absolutely loved it. It brought back loads of memories of oasis and not having mobile phones. Very nostalgic."
Battery Park has completed its run at the Tron but will play at Cumbernauld Theatre in Cumbernauld on 17 October, Howden Park Centre in Livingstone on 19 October, CatStrand in New Galloway on 21 October, Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh on 26 & 27 October, and Eden Court in Inverness on Sunday 29 October.