Gary: Tank Commander – Mission Quite Possible
Greg McHugh's military sitcom makes a smooth transition to the live arena
Opening with a video showing a desert rescue of 104th Royal Tank Regiment by American forces, the noise of spinning helicopter blades fills the Hydro. Adam, Charlie and Jacko all abseil in from a helicopter and excitement builds as the audience wait for the man they came to see. With his tan turned up to Tango and cheeky grin in place, he descends to the stage and whips off his helmet to reveal his new bleached hairdo: it's Gary.
After three BBC series, Gary: Tank Commander has followed in the footsteps of Still Game and Limmy and taken a successful Scottish comedy from TV to a live show at Glasgow's Hydro. While the series took place in Gary's native Midlothian, the show sees the regiment on deployment in Afghanistan. Major Randy Badger has a mission for them: look after a 'jihaddie baddie' until his guys can transport him to Guantanamo Bay.
The recurring jokes from the series are all there – Gary answering the phone as a telephone operator, his love of chips, Adam's 'Oi Oi!' and Julie's 'Oh My God' routine – but they are worked into a storyline, rather than trotted out for easy laughs. Occasionally the focus on 'doing the right thing' feels a bit panto in style but Mission Quite Possible also has some serious comments to make on the treatment of prisoners and the assumption that to 'look-like-a-terrorist' equates with being one.
The story is interspersed with hilarious musical numbers danced by the lads, who've evidently spent time perfecting the routines to Beyoncé's 'Single Ladies'. The cast, and Greg McHugh in particular, relish the live format. They have a whale of a time on stage and their enjoyment is infectious; so much so that on more than one occasion the actors are visibly biting their cheeks to stop from laughing.
The ending feels a bit drawn out but McHugh and the gang have succeeded in the tricky transition from telly to stage with a show that not only gives the fans what they want to hear but offers a host of new material that leaves us rich in Gary's unique wisdoms.
Gary: Tank Commander – Mission Quite Possible, SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Sat 22 Oct, 8pm.