I’ll admit it – I love panto. Done well, it’s absolutely brilliant. And to those who say, “Oh no it isn’t!” don’t worry. I have done my utmost to ensure that this is an impartial review, free of catchphrases and corny one-liners. How, you ask? My response – take someone to the show who most decidedly DOES NOT want to come. Okay, he’s not quite five years old and doesn’t even properly know what panto is, but still. He’s not going, my opinionated companion tells me, and that’s that. Even my attempts to mollify him with – ‘you get to boo at the baddie!’ or, ‘I’ll buy you ice cream in the interval!’ don’t impress him. Only subterfuge lures him in the taxi to the King’s, and of course we all know how much children like being tricked.
Act 1 – My date, now even more suspicious of the proceedings, watches disdainfully as Hibernia Hardup of Easter Road, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother (Grant Stott) saunters onto stage in a fabulous towering black beehive and matching slinky evening gown. With fitting pantomime gusto she spits out contempt towards the audience while equally suitable villainous music accompanies. Too late, I realize this may be too forbidding for a tender mind. Thankfully, Fairy May (Allan Stewart) and Buttons (Andy Gray) bounce onto stage with their double-act of silliness quick-smart, running through the gags faster than a Leither gets the drinks in at last orders. Even the forgetful omission of an essential stage prop gains big laughs, as the duo incorporate it into their routine with the ease of those who’ve been there, done that, and know how to manipulate an accidental gaff into a hilarious self-conscious joke. From here on in we’re whirled through song and dance numbers interspersed with skits and slapstick, set against a riotous backdrop of candy-coloured lighting, sparkling costumes, dazzling flashes and puffs of smoke. And I still haven’t mentioned two giant white horses flying through the air or that carriage.
Interval – We’ve survived the ice cream queue by the time I judge it safe enough to ask the doubter – so, what did he think? Weren’t the horses fantastic? His serious face looks up at me thoughtfully before answering: “I liked the baddie.”
Act 2 – Emboldened by his fearlessness, we plunge back into the theatre. I laugh hysterically at an innuendo-laden sketch involving DVD titles, while the erstwhile-disbeliever cheers every time Fairy May gets a feather duster up her skirt. Meanwhile the costumes get even more impressive and ornate, Cinderella and her prince tie the knot, and somehow Grant Stott oozes sex appeal in a royal purple all-in-one tracksuit and stilettos. Don’t ask me how, it might have been the glass of wine to wash down the ice cream. All I know is I’m loving it, as is the rest of this raucous audience – to which we can now add one new fan.
Photos courtesy of Douglas Robertson.
Cinderella runs until 21st January 2018 at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh.