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REVIEW: When We Were Young

Updated: May 1

13 April 2024

East Kilbride Arts Centre


When We Were Young by Liam Lambie

When We Were Young follows the daily lives of a teenage gang in Glasgow during the time that the city was known as 'the murder capital of Europe.' During the 1990's and early 2000's this 'young team' lived their lives on the streets, loving, fighting, dying for one another. Close bonds were made with those born on the same street, whilst those from another postcode became mortal enemies. A seemingly endless circle of poverty, violence and lack of opportunity awaits Mooney and his mates. Can they break the chain once and for all?

At first glance, When We Were Young is a hilarious peek behind the curtain at Scottish ned culture. If you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall and hear just what these gangs discuss over a bottle of Buckfast on a Friday night, then this is your chance. The Glasgow dialogue is coarse, razor sharp and brilliantly delivered by a superb cast with dynamite comic timing. There are some fabulous one-liners in this script; one or two I've saved to memory and will be using on the regular (thanks Liam!).

The audience were in uproar for most of the show - the laughter was genuine and frequent - and there is no better praise from a room full of Scots. But very quickly we start to see and hear of the horrors that lie just beneath the surface of this street gang's bravado. It's a biting glimpse into the reality of poverty, and a shocking story that so desperately deserves to be told.

Liam Lambie, Clare Rooney and Ross McAree in When We Were Young

Liam Lambie not only writes and directs When We Were Young but stars as the lead too. His performance as young gang leader Mooney is devastating. Cheeky, violent, conflicted, lost - Mooney is the perfect example of a boy trapped by his circumstances. Lambie's performance is so good, so physical and true, I genuinely sat back from him at one point, the threat of violence so terrible and real. But in other scenes, he will break your heart. What a talent.

All of the cast are remarkable. Girlfriends Micheala (Dionne Frati) and Sammy (Candace Nicholson), gang members Tam (Ross McAree), Gee (Joshua Haynes) and Joe (Kyle Martin), and long suffering mum Mags (Clare Rooney) all bring their characters to life with skill and empathy. There are so many stand-out scenes and notable performances from each of them that I can't possibly list them. But there isn't a weak link in the cast.

They all in parts reminded me of people I am friends with or who I have shared the highs and lows of my life with. And this is why When We Were Young will appeal to so many people on its tour across Scotland. You may even recognise yourself in one these characters. You will certainly recognise their situations, their family and friendship bonds, their hopes, dreams and disappointments.

With little to no set, the strength of When We Were Young falls entirely on the writing, direction and performances. Thankfully, we are in safe hands. The story is a horrible tragedy, and is probably frighteningly close to the truth that many still live through today; but it's finely balanced with likeable characters and uproarious humour. It's so well conceived and beautifully presented that you'll be laughing one minute and crying the next.

I genuinely felt a bond with these characters. And it's so important that their stories are told.


📸 production photos: Michelle Malone Photography

Running times:

ACT ONE – 80mins


ACT TWO – 60mins

Kyle Martin, Liam Lambie and Ross McAree in When We Were Young


When We Were Young Cast

Mooney Liam Lambie

Michaela Dionne Frati

Tam Ross McAree

Mags Clare Rooney

Gee Joshua Haynes

Sammy Candace Nicholson

Joe Kyle Martin

Written and Directed by Liam Lambie

Produced by Geez a Break Productions

Music by Talia Stirling


When We Were Young Listings and Tickets

Glasgow Pavilion Theatre

Fri 16 - Sat 17 August 2024

Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine

Fri 23 August 2024

Ayr Gaiety Theatre

Sat 24 August 2024

When We Were Young by Liam Lambie


REVIEW: When We Were Young by Liam Lambie, April 2024.

🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange for my time and for writing this review. Neither the venue nor show has a say in what I write. I'm completely independent and review invites do not have any impact on my analysis or star ratings.

📸 Find Lisa in the Theatre on Instagram for more photos and videos.

Lisa in the theatre. Scottish theatre reviewer. UK theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.


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