Treat your­self to feel-good fes­tive tales with added fun

The Scotsman - - Reviews -

THE­ATRE

Beauty And The Beast

King’s The­atre, Ed­in­burgh

JJJJ Snow White And The Seven Dames

Perth The­atre

JJJJ

YOU can be as satir­i­cal and ironic as you like, around the Scot­tish panto scene; or ven­ture far into the realms of Christ­mas chil­dren’s the­atre, with vary­ing re­sults.

When it comes to rol­lick­ing good night out for all the fam­ily, though, it’s dif­fi­cult to beat a good old tra­di­tional pan­tomime, that strange fes­tive mix­ture of fairy­tale magic, rude jokes, daft com­edy rou­tines and loud au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion that can tol­er­ate no end of va­ri­ety and up­dat­ing, with­out los­ing its es­sen­tial sparkle; and here, this Christ­mas, are a cou­ple of shows that per­fectly demon­strate the sheer fun and flex­i­bil­ity of the genre.

At the King’s in Ed­in­burgh things are in­evitably not quite the same, this year, with the the­atre’s much-loved pan­tomime daftie Andy Gray out of the show be­cause of ill­ness; but still, it’s hard not to ad­mire the panto’s re­main­ing two stars – Al­lan Ste­wart and Grant Stott–- for the flair and en­ergy with which they make their Ed­in­burgh-ac­cented ver­sion of Beauty And The Beast work any­way, in his ab­sence.

What they pro­duce, in essence, is a #metoo (or #meanaw) ver­sion of the story, which fore­grounds Grant Stott’s per­for­mance as nasty vil­lain Flash Boaby – the wide­boy vil­lager who takes a fancy to Belle, and is de­ter­mined to do away with the Beast who has stolen her heart – along­side Ste­wart’s pretty and feisty Dame, cas­tle cook May Potty, who has a feel­ing that Belle may be the right girl for the Beast.

With Flash Boaby not above a bit of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and hate speech, the show some­times takes on a strik­ingly con­tem­po­rary tone, de­spite the lushly tra­di­tional sets in this pro­duc­tion by Uk-wide pan­tomak­ers Qdos. Yet it’s all de­liv­ered with lash­ings of good hu­mour, plenty of mu­sic, a touch of ro­man­tic magic, and – cour­tesy of Stott – layer upon layer of Hearts and Hibs jokes, made to de­light an Ed­in­burgh au­di­ence, and send them hap­pily out into the night.

Perth The­atre’s ver­sion of the Snow White story, writ­ten by the fine Glas­gow play­wright Frances Poet, also has a con­tem­po­rary twist, as it dis­penses with the seven dwarves, and re­places them with one sin­gle ac­tor who some­how - op­po­site Bar­rie Hunter’s mag­nif­i­cent Dame Sassy - man­ages to play all six of her sis­ters. It’s a feat that’s not so much about sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief, more about a happy ac­cep­tance of to­tal ab­sur­dity; and even more boldly, Poet’s script has the Dames work­ing not in a gold­mine, but in a pit owned by the Dun­frackin Cor­po­ra­tion, which has caused mas­sive en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age to the king­dom of Perth­fect, and is now be­ing shaken by earthquakes.

For all that, though – or per­haps be­cause of it – Snow White And The Seven Dames is mostly a tra­di­tional happy fam­ily show, with far fewer rude jokes than its Ed­in­burgh cousin (although there are some), and plenty of clas­sic panto wicked­ness from He­len Lo­gan as the wicked queen who wants Snow White wiped off the Perth­fect map.

The script is some­times a lit­tle too ver­bally clever for its own the­atri­cal good, but Emma Mullen’s Snow White is a fine 21st cen­tury hero­ine, in search of friend­ship rather than love; and with a rich playlist of cur­rent hits, and three teams of lo­cal young­sters pro­vid­ing ter­rific sup­port as a cho­rus of friendly danc­ing moles, Bar­rie Hunter’s first show as di­rec­tor of the Perth panto emerges as a joy­ful Christ­mas treat, bright, witty, good­hearted, and full of fun.

JOYCE MCMIL­LAN

Beauty And The Beast is at the King’s The­atre, Ed­in­burgh, un­til 20 Jan­uary; Snow White And The Seven Dames is at Perth The­atre un­til 5 Jan­uary.

Gil­lian Park­house is Belle, Chris Cow­ley the Beast and Al­lan Ste­wart and Grant Stott lead the way with flair and en­ergy

Ewan Somers as Cissy and Bar­rie Hunter as Sassy – his other role is as di­rec­tor of his first panto at Perth

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