There weren’t many very brave Scots in the audience in the Concert Hall. I counted only half a dozen proper kilts, and there was never a sporran in sight, for even the most patriotic gentlemen had decided not to expose their knobbly knees to the icy Brisbane winter wind.
But that didn’t detract from their enjoyment of this generic spectacular, for there are almost as many pseudo-Scots in Australia as there are pseudo-Irish, and as usual promoter Andrew McKinnon put on a great show, another perfect crowd-pleaser.
And did I mention the eight dancing gels in their plaids? Not a River Dance gesture between them, I’m glad to say, and they threw themselves into it arms and all, and made Michael Flatley look like – well, like the Irish dancer he is.
Add to this cast of thousands Sean Boyle, the Irish musical director in a green and gold kilt, and you have an evening of pure Celtic magic – and when I say pure I mean it, for this show contained no playing-down to the audience, or anything even remotely Disneyfied.
Yes, there was a medley from Brigadoon, Lerner and Loewe’s 1954 Broadway musical, but that’s almost a classic in its own right by now, and overall this was serious Scottish music, from well-know 18th century ballads like Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon and the Skye Boat Song, to historic clan rallying tunes like Macgregor’s Gathering and The March of the Cameron Men, and most of the Bonnie Prince Charlie songs.
The Thistle Highland dancers, in plaids as inauthentic as you could wish – is there such a thing as a genuine purple tartan? I ask merely out of ignorance, my grandmother’s McDonnell of Glengarry pattern being so obscure that nobody except family members recognise it – accompanied by the tiny Aspinalls Blair and Cailin, slightly too short to be the Anglican Primate’s sons. The girls got through the thousand-year-old sword dance with their ankles intact, although the little boys didn’t get a go at that one.
When Mirusia Louwerse sang The Skye Boat Song there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and when the rich tones of tenor Greg Moore and bass baritone Samuel Dundas harmonised in The Road to the Isles, “the laughter put the leap upon the lame”, so that nobody’s feet could keep from tapping.
And I mustn’t forget the compulsory sing-along, encompassing popular songs like Mull of Kintyre (thank goodness they printed the words, for Paul McCartney wrote it 30 years ago) and Scottish Soldier (which used to bring tears even to the eyes of my flinty-hearted Aunty Peg), as well as more trad numbers like The Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond (where I too have wandered in my day), and of course Scotland the Brave, it was a night to warm the cockles of any Scottish, or even Sassenach, heart.
Scotland the Brave 2007 has already toured to New Zealand and Canada to rapturous applause, and next year Andrew McKinnon has it booked in at the Lincoln Centre in New York, by which time I suppose it will have become Scotland the Brave 2008.
High may your proud standards gloriously wave, Andrew McKinnon, and thank you for a night of authentic Scottish grandeur.
Producer/director Mark Collier-Vickers
Conductor and musical arranger Sean O’Boyle
Sound design Geoff McGahan
Lighting Steve Granville
Played 30 June 2007
Duration : 2 hours, with one interval