“Where are you from?” asks the lady checking our tickets as we enter the theatre. “Oh right! ” she replies when we answer. This was our first experience attending a gang show and it proved to be a positive and entertaining evening.
Performed by members of scout groups from all across the Chester area, the show returns for its 65th production after a covid enforced absence in 2021. Since 2008 the show has been staged at the Kings School’s Vanbrugh Theatre but local history fans may be interested to know that former venues include the long gone Royalty theatre and the Gateway theatre.
The Gang show offers a mix of comedy sketches, music, dance with a dash of education, and this year some reflections on the pandemic and its impact on us all. Opening with an energetic version of Elton John’s “I’m still standing” ( a musical memory for many of us thanks to Elton’s distinctive 2020 lockdown performance) , the show skips along to a sketch about the return of face to face scouting after months of zoom meetings. From the start the talent and enthusiasm of the cast shine through, particularly during the numerous dance sequences which have clearly taken time to perfect. And early highlight of the show was a simple and moving solo version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird”. A longer sketch,” The saga of the Norselands” was packed with verbal puns and also boasted a castle set, in much better condition than our own Chester castle. This was followed by the darker “Story of the Shadows”, with a journey into a land of darkness with some carefully selected musical numbers including Radiohead’s “Creep”.
In the second half “after the ball” offers a twist on Cinderella with a further mix of contemporary pop and rock tracks, followed by a dystopian dance sequence, a line up of famous scientists from history, and more sketches before another rousing musical medley to end the show ( including more Fleetwood Mac!) The pic n mix format keeps the show pacy and offers something for everyone to enjoy.
A glance at the programme reveals the huge team supporting the cast on stage, and the months of hard work and preparation that have taken place. The costumes are particularly effective including the colourful troll outfits and the masked inhabitants of the shadow lands. Credit must also go to the live band who kept my foot tapping throughout. As we all continue to walk the path back to normality, its great to see ventures like this again, young people coming working hard and coming together to produce something positive. We could only imagine the pride of any parents watching their children in the show.
For tickets visit https://www.chestergangshow.net/ The show runs until the 19th Feb.