Greg Hemphill on Still Game: 'The message is to enjoy old age and find adventure where you seek it – don't grow old gracefully'

Final score: Still Game's last hurrah

credit: Paul Chappells

The creators of the popular Scottish TV series talk about saying goodbye to Jack and Victor on the big stage of the Hydro

After 20 years, nine series on TV and two huge arena shows, the cast of Still Game are bidding a final, fond farewell to the rascally pensioners of Craiglang with their third stage extravaganza at Glasgow's Hydro. Creators and stars Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill sat down to chew the fat with us about going out in style.

So the television series ended with most of the characters having passed on. Are we meeting them again in the afterlife?
Greg Hemphill: Well, it picks up from where the show left off. That's about as much as we can say without spoiling it. We wanted to convey that this is the very last outing, so the story has a feel of tying things up. We don't want anyone thinking they'll be back in three or four years' time.

What if you were approached to do, say, a Bobby spin-off?
GH: We probably would actually, that's a good idea. Auld, bald Bobby …
Ford Kiernan: That's not outside the realms of possibility. But it's not something we're looking at just now. With the stage show, we didn't want to go back in time and rehash or revisit something that happened 20 years ago. To give it continuity, it's taking place more-or-less around the time of the final episode.

So are the core cast still alive or is someone reminiscing?
FK: You can fuck off with that line of enquiry.
GH: We've said enough already.

This is the third live show …
GH: Return of the Jedi!

Indeed. Is it a challenge satisfying the spectacle demanded by the Hydro while retaining the warmth of the sitcom?
GH: We go about each one in exactly the same way. There's a different set of rules for theatre but we were always confident it would work on stage because that's where it started [at the Edinburgh Fringe] in 1997. With the splintering of TV audiences, people still want to come together and laugh. We weren't daunted and thought we could be a bit more adventurous. Still Game had odd little supernatural elements, weird things like guys who could hear through walls. But it was grounded in reality. At the Hydro though, we can do things we can't on television.
FK: There was scepticism at the start when we decided to take a sitcom onto a stage that size. But the audience know they're coming for a big night out. We're doing repeat business because they know they're in safe hands. Or at least, I hope they are.

And do you enjoy writing a longer narrative arc?
GH: Absolutely. The story for the first Hydro show was a much more traditional sitcom one, about Jack having an iPad conversation with his daughter, which could easily have sat in a TV episode. We were aware it was a reunion after seven years away and we wanted to really explore that. But when the second live show came along, we were more confident in taking these characters and moving them to wherever we want because the theatre is more of an imaginary space.
FK: I reckon we got it bang on the second time because it wasn't a reunion, it was an out-and-out big night out. And so's this one. And a farewell.

It's rare nowadays to get a sitcom that's watched by every generation. Do you worry …
FK: That we'll no' get it again? We don't need it twice. It's like sex with Sophia Loren.

What response does Still Game get from pensioners?
GH: They'll tell us they call their pal Jack or Isa. And it's lovely that people identify in the same way we do, because Jack and Victor are loosely based on relatives of ours.
FK: We're not claiming to have changed the way pensioners are viewed. But we've always tried to write them with relevance.

And has it prepared you for your own autumn years?
FK: I hope so. I was saying to my wife the other night that, having been pensioners for 20 years, it'll be a walk in the park.
GH: The characters were always aspirational, in terms of the way they went about their lives and the fun they had. The message is to enjoy old age and find adventure where you seek it. Don't grow old gracefully. I would love to have a life as exciting as Jack and Victor's. All they have is a pub and a hell of a great set of friends.

Still Game Live: The Final Farewell, SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Fri 27 Sep–Sun 13 Oct.

Still Game: Live

The stage version of Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill's TV sitcom of ageing disgracefully, starring Ford Kiernan as Jack Jarvis and Greg Hemphill as Victor McDade.

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