Kill Johnny Glendenning
David Ireland is star of DC Jackson's murderous comedy about Glasgow's dark underworld
On the surface, Kill Johnny Glendenning is an ironic romp that infects gangster comedy with Glaswegian themes: sectarianism, the Big Man of underground legend, the fashionable west end lady and her dubious family connections. David Ireland has fun as the titular terrorist, raging and chasing journalist Bruce (Steven McNicoll) and kingpin Andrew (Paul Sampson from River City), while the banter between hopeless hit-man Dominic (Philip Cairns) and his Goodfellas obsessed sidekick Skootch (Josh Whitelaw) adds buffoonery to the brutality.
However, thanks to playwright DC Jackson's subtle structure (the events are played in reverse) and frequent allusions to films, the action is undercut by a sharp commentary on how, even in gangland, masculine identity is bolstered less by genuine hardness than the performance of it.
Even Glendenning and Andrew are more concerned with image than reality, comparing their media presences alongside their willingness to commit torture. Skootch is dragged into the nastiness because of his fixation on American gangster glamour, and Dominic's ring-tone is a Jay-Z classic.
Ireland steals the show – Dominic is lost in Glendenning's whirlwind of sectarian bravado and macho swagger, and the confrontation at the end of the first act is a recognisable series of Mexican stand-offs and gun-fighting boasts.
The fast paced direction, Ireland’s energy, the play’s acerbic wit and high body count, however, are deceptive as Jackson's comedy resolves on a sentimental note. Yet he delivers a sharp satire on the gap between the nastiness of organised crime and its media glamour.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 11 Oct.
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 22 Oct – Sat 8 Nov.