Pantomime

Cinderella

06/12/17

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

It’s hard to believe but the pantomime season is already upon us! In Edinburgh, of course, that can mean only one thing: the annual Christmas panto at the King’s Theatre, presented once again (in fact, for the thirteenth year in succession!) by the ‘gleesome threesome’ of Allan Stewart, Andy Grey and Grant Stott. If you were worried that their enduring domination of this seasonal slot might have led to a certain sloppiness, don’t be misled. Cinderella is just as assured a production as ever, and the ease of the three performers with each other is evident from the off-set. The highest compliment I can give them is that they make this look so easy, when in fact pantomime is one of the hardest theatrical disciplines to get right.

Mind you, they don’t mind subverting some of the established rules of panto either. Why not have four dames, for instance? A nice one (Stewart as Fairy May), a mean one (Stott as Baroness Hibernia Hardup), and two that are … well, women (Clare Grey and Maureen Carr as the Ugly Sisters)? And who ever said that Cinderella (Gillian Parkhouse) and Prince Charming (James Darch) can’t be involved in some of the funniest scenes? Meanwhile, it’s left to Grey to deliver his usual dim-witted, prat-falling persona as Buttons. Okay, so some of his material may have sailed into Edinburgh with Noah, but my goodness, he makes me laugh!

So, what we get is a fine festive banquet, replete with colourful costumes, energetic dance routines, double entendres, local banter and lashings of general silliness. Any mistakes that occur are gleefully pounced upon and incorporated into the hilarity and there’s plenty of skilful audience interplay – anyone would think these guys know what they’re doing.  Just when I’m thinking ‘this is great but there’s nothing here to rival last year’s stunning ‘helicopter’ sequence’, the special visual effects team unleash a creation that has large sections of the audience – me included – gasping out loud in a ‘how did they do that?’ kind of way. 

If you and your family are looking to get into the festive spirit, this would be a really good place to start. Cinderella runs until January 21st and there are still some tickets available at time of writing, but please don’t hang about… they’re selling like the proverbial hot mince pies!

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Jack and the Beanstalk

cfk-panto-beanstalk-header

30/11/16

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

I thought I knew what to expect with this one. I’ve seen a lot of pantos in my time (and even performed in a few amateur productions when I was a kid). But I have never – NEVER – seen one as accomplished as this. The sheer scale and spectacle of it is genuinely awesome. I left the theatre feeling light as air and full of joy. And surely this is what pantomime is all about?

Allan Stewart (Dame Trot), Andy Gray (Hector) and Grant Stott (Fleshcreep) have made their collective mark as King’s Theatre panto regulars – and it’s easy to see why they’re so popular. They have an easy rapport with each other, as well as with the crowd, and they’re genuinely funny, milking the script for all its worth, as well as ad-libbing profusely to excellent effect. And the supporting cast are all good too, with no weak link among them.

It’s nice to see a pantomime that values its host city; typically, they seem to make jokes at the town’s expense, rather than celebrating its fabulousness as this one does. The good fairy, for example, is presented as ‘The Spirit of the Castle’ (Lisa Lynch), which rather obviously implies that the city itself is a protective one, with goodness at its heart. It’s a lovely touch.

The production values are very high. There’s clearly been no expense spared, and every penny has been well spent. From the superb costuming (the animals are particularly appealing) to the special effects, this is truly a spectacular piece of theatre. The giant, for example, is extraordinarily rendered, a looming monstrosity of a prop, prompting the whole audience to gasp – although even this pales in comparison to Dame Trot’s jaw-dropping beanstalk ascent.

If there’s a criticism, it’s a tiny one: the giant’s demise is perhaps a little underwhelming after everything that has gone before. But honestly, it doesn’t matter. With a show where everything – the music, the choreography, the acting, the writing, the jokes, the scenery – is this impressive, it seems churlish to criticise.

By far the best pantomime I have ever seen: a standout production.

5 stars

Susan Singfield