From Scotland: Another Fine Show To Follow…

In December 2022 I went off to watch, in the Southside of Glasgow, a disabled theatre company – handily called the Southside Group –I had seen virtually online and had loved their work. With the return to live performance getting the opportunity to see them up close was too good to miss. Here we hear from one of their artistic directors about how a learning-disabled theatre group are going from strength to strength.

I am indebted to the company for the sharing of the interview and it has been replicated here, without edit.

Glasgow based theatre company The Occasion established The Southside Group (TSG) – an exciting initiative designed to provide adults with learning disabilities the opportunity to get involved in theatre – in February 2020. During Covid, with no opportunity to meet in person, TSG created several online works before finally getting the chance to perform live to a public audience last December. The company are now thrilled to have the opportunity to progress even further with a three-night run of their new show, Another Nice Mess, at the internationally renowned Tramway in Glasgow this June.

With all the eccentricity and rebelliousness of a 1940s Ealing comedy, with just a dash of melodrama, working with Glaswegian playwright, Stewart Ennis, Another Nice Mess explores how the 1947 visit of comedy duo Laurel and Hardy impacted the members of a local Southside fan club. Or, how it might have, had such a club existed! We spoke to The Occasion’s Co-Artistic Director Peter Clerke about the group and their new production: “The development of The Southside Group over the past 3 years has been remarkable. From the early lock-down days, when group members hardly knew each other, let alone how Zoom worked, through to the first public performances of ‘The Snow Queen’ last December and now onto Tramway and ‘Another Nice Mess’. During this time the group’s skills, confidence and commitment have all grown significantly with everyone, regardless of different ability levels, contributing equally and supporting each other with care and much fun. Artists, such as Stewart, that have come in to work with the group have contributed greatly to this development while the artists, equally, have relished the opportunity to work on such an exciting and enjoyable project.”

When asked about Another Nice Mess, Peter added: “Stan Laurel may only have lived on Glasgow’s Southside for a few years but it is where he first started to perform and his adoption by the city was deeply felt. When he returned with Oliver Hardy, in 1932, over 10,000 people turned up at Central Station to welcome him back. So, what better subject for a production by The Southside Group? However, from the outset, we didn’t want to try and do some kind of ‘biopic’. Rather, we were much more interested in the world of Glasgow circa 1947, of the hopes and aspirations of a community just recovering from the Second World War and looking for ways to celebrate their hard-fought survival. A combination of these two strands led to the creation of The Battlefield Laurel and Hardy Appreciation Society (aka ‘The Laurel and Hardy Club’) whose meeting place was in an old bombed-out cinema. The rest, as they say, is history. Even if that history is purely fictitious.”

All performances of Another Nice Mess will be BSL interpreted and captioned throughout to help more people enjoy the performance. “One of the aims of TSG, from the outset, has been to create work that is accessible to as wide a cross-section of the community as possible. We have been very fortunate with ‘Another Nice Mess’ to work with Karen Forbes (BSL interpreter) and Glenda Carson (captioner). Karen will be on stage – with, perhaps, some unexpected interactions – for all performances, while Glenda’s captions will be fully integrated into the show’s video content. We are enormously grateful for a grant from The Boshier-Hinton Foundation towards accessibility costs.”

The Southside Group is a company of 15 individuals aged 20 to 60 with learning disabilities who meet weekly in Glasgow’s Southside. Some are experienced performers, some are beginners, but all contribute enormously to the work of the group, challenging perceptions and showing audiences what they can do.

One group member said: “I have enjoyed every minute of my time in The Southside Group but for me the thing that completely strings it all together is the people here, everybody has so much personality and Pete, Catherine and Stewart bring out how everyone is unique. They are all very caring and I have always benefited from their conversation and advice.”

Another Nice Mess will play at Tramway, Glasgow on Thursday 29th and Friday 30th June at 7.30pm, and Saturday 1st July at 7.30pm. To purchase tickets and for more information on The Occasion and The Southside Group, visit

Donald Stewart