30 January 2023
The Herald (p.3)

★ ★ ★ ★

Once upon a time, the idea of running a regular bus service to some of Glasgow’s outlying areas might have seemed a fanciful notion. These days, while things have changed enough so it is possible to take a trip to see Ellie Harrison’s glorious piece of agit-prop theatre, it has been something of a bumpy ride getting here.

Bus Regulation: The Musical (Strathclyde) cops its moves from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express to whizz through more than half a century of civic calamities on the road to the mess of bus privatisation that exists today. This is done largely through the narration of Nellie the Clippie. Played with effervescent brio by Katy Thomson, Nellie steers us through the rocky road from municipal ownership of buses to the deregulation that ushered in the mess of privatisation that exists today. This is illustrated by an eight-piece ensemble of skaters drawn from three local roller derby clubs; Glasgow Roller Derby, Mean City Roller Derby, and Sugar & Spin Skate Crew.

The result is a fun and informative half hour that lays bare the roots of the ongoing absurdities of a system hijacked to benefit company shareholders rather than the tax paying citizens who paid for them. Those responsible are booed like pantomime villains as Nellie names the guilty, while the skaters don various coloured capes and logos to mark the changes.

Originally presented in Manchester in 2019, Harrison has adapted the show for Glasgow with the aid of the Get Glasgow Moving campaign for better public transport in the city. While there are sadly no songs to flesh things out, this fact-filled extravaganza manages to both entertain and enlighten in a way that highlights how public services are being asset stripped in plain sight. This makes for a vitally of the moment piece of serious fun that is well worth the fare.

Neil Cooper