* The Commonwealth Games open in Glasgow one year from today. Here’s my personal take on the Games build up, based on a recent research trip on commission for a couple of magazine stories – more of those later.
Thursday lunchtime and it’s a full house.
I’m at Oran Mor [pictured above], the arts centre, whisky bar and entertainment venue at the pulsing heart of Glasgow’s West End.
Visitors to the Botanic Gardens, located across the road, are basking in a rare outburst of tropical Glaswegian weather. But it feels deliciously cool downstairs in the crypt beneath the bar.
Around me people are tucking into their pints of lager and scotch pies, a diverse crowd of regulars, trendy West End types and a couple of Chinese students, who looked somewhat bemused by the thick local patois.
We are all gathered here for a West End institution: A Play, a Pie and a Pint.
The lunchtime theatre was started by Scottish theatre stalwart David Maclennan in 2004. Oran Mor today commissions and produces 38 original new dramas per year, and stages them six days per week, commissioning the largest amount of new theatre in the UK.
Glasgow is gearing up for a big year in 2014 with the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park a year from today, and the accompanying cultural programme, Festival 2014, running from May next year onwards.
This lunchtime drama, however, offers a truly gritty Glaswegian introduction to the city.
The show today is a summer pantomime, an adult take on the traditional “He’s behind you.” Entitled A Bit of a Dick … Whittington, it’s more Mock the Week than Mother Goose with sweary, satirical swipes at Russian oligarchs and bedroom tax.
The crowd whoops appreciatively as a wee Jimmy Krankie soundalike runs circles around an older man dressed as a pantomime dame.
Two ladies of a certain age close to me join in vocally with the heckling in between gulps of their fizzy lager.
We troop out into the sunshine afterwards, blinking as West End’s heady mix of yoga studios, trendy coffee shops and self-consciously cool vinyl-only record shops jolt us back to reality en route to Hillhead subway station.
Scotland’s key medal hope among the 17 sports included in the Games is lawn bowls.
But a lunchtime performance at Oran Mor confirms that, culturally at least, Glasgow is poised to take the gold.
What’s your take on Glasgow and the Games? Post your comments below.
* Liked this, try this also, A fact-finding trip to Glasgow.