The King’s Head website states that Shang-a-Lang is not suitable for children. However I would recommend it for those who are old enough to remember the 1970s and for all those teenage girls who fantasised that they would meet, fall in love with, and marry their favourite pop star. I moved from Elvis Presley, through Paul McCartney and on to Scott Engel (of the Walker Brothers).
The story takes place at Butlins holiday camp in Minehead: the year is 1998 and the venue is home to a Festival of the 1970s. (I was even shown to my seat by Tom Woodward’s extremely polite and helpful Redcoat.) Pauline (Lisa Kay) is heading for her fortieth birthday and has been taken to the festival by her old school friend Jackie (Kellie Batchelor). They are soon joined by Lauren (Samantha Edmonds) and reminisce about their younger days and the Bay City Rollers. (If you are still too young to be in the loop, the Rollers – idolised by their fans the Rollerettes – were a leading Scottish boy band during the 1970s. Their trademark clothes were calf length trousers, platform soled boots and tartan scarves.)
Over the course of the weekend the girls meet Vince (Thomas Craig) and Carl (Ben McGregor), who comically don blackface and afro wigs, although it is not clear who they are supposed to be impersonating. Vince is also part of a tribute band to the Rollers and appears as Woody, Pauline’s teenage heartthrob, who she once snogged.
As well as being a nostalgic trip back to the 1970s, complete with hideous fashions that include shiny jumpsuits, gold platform soled shoes, glam rock shimmer on the cheekbones and hot pants, Shang-a-Lang ventures into far darker territory. The characters share their hopes and dreams, thwarted or otherwise. Pauline is still looking for the right man; Jackie is married with children, but is easily seduced by Vince, and Lauren enjoys life to the full as a drunken slapper. Vince is seething with resentment and hate over his failed relationship and minimal access to his children, whilst believing that he can fall in love again at the drop of a hat, and Carl thinks women only exist for one thing.
You will find yourself singing along with a whole range of music from the period: Blockbuster by the Sweet; Sex Machine by James Brown; Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacques; David Cassidy’s Could it be Forever and other ‘70s hits. Pauline finally renounces her teenage dreams of Woody and the productions winds up with Candy Staton’s Young Hearts Run Free.
Our teenage years are an important part of our growth and maturity and most of us still possibly feel 16 deep down inside with a beating heart that could still fantasise for Woody, Les or Eric of the Rollers, or whoever else strummed a guitar or thumped a drum kit and enticed us to rush out and buy their latest record – sorry that should be cassette if we’re talking about the 1970s. But would we want to revisit those angst ridden adolescent years? Just tuning into Absolute Classic ‘70s on the radio would be a safer, healthier and better bet.
With an R-O-double-L, E-R-S,
Bay City Rollers are the best!