The Sweetest Growl (4 stars)

The Sweetest Growl

Elaine C Smith excels in stomping musical

Swapping her iconic Mary Doll role for another equally gallus Mary, Ms McGowan of the Clyde Valley Stompers, is the irrepressible Elaine C Smith. Claire Nicol's musical about the Gorbals gal, perceptively directed by Lesley Hart, is both poignant and hilarious.

McGowan is first seen backstage, wondering if she can go ahead with a reunion, having eschewed a promising career for motherhood and a marriage to demanding Merchant Navy man Robert Menzies (George Drennan) in spite of possessing a fantastic jazz voice.

Nicol's script is conventional, yet has a lot of heart, and the emphasis on McGowan's friendship – and subsequent rivalry with – the less talented, but equally likeable Kate Tierney (Hilary Lyon) is key to what makes the show so compelling. The complex dynamics of women and career pressure as the sixties approached are put under the spotlight, and given as much weight as Smith's fabulous voice and charisma.

Smith's comic timing is superb, and Lyon and Drennan play a variety of roles with elan. The childhood flashbacks are never too cloying: sweet yes, but there's a lot of cheek there, too. After all, you can take the girl out of Glasgow …

Oran Mor Glasgow, until Sat 12 Oct; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 15–Sat 19 Oct; Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, Tue 22 Oct–Sat 26 Oct.

A Play, A Pie & A Pint: The Sweetest Growl

A new play about the legendary singer Mary McGowan written by Claire Nicol and starring Elaine C Smith.