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Theatre Review: Panto Reviews 2018

Michael Cox reviews Mammy Goose, Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella.

Tis the season: another year of Christmas madness from Scotland’s theatres.

Mammy Goose ***

Mammy Goose is the latest Tron/Johnny McKnight partnership of Christmas offerings, with McKnight writing, directing and starring, along with seasonal favourites Darren Brownlie and Julie Wilson Nimmo.

The great news is that the show is on form: it’s cheeky, entertainingly shambolic at times and has moments of genuine heart—particularly a nice, well-drawn romance between Brownlie’s Jack Goose and Ryan Ferrie’s Will Visage.

And yet, as fun as everything is, it still feels like something is missing. The performances are consistently great, particularly the interplay between McKnight, Brownlie and Nimmo, and yet the script at the centre of the production has little of the wit or depth that McKnight is capable of. Everything is held together by the performances, which proves enough. Sadly, ‘enough’ doesn’t feel like enough in retrospect.

Beauty and the Beast ****

Over at the Kings in Edinburgh is the latest Qdos offering.

There is good news in that there is much to enjoy. The production values are still top notch with some impressive special effects and musical numbers. More impressive is the fact that, unlike the last few years, this production actually manages to tell its story, even if Belle (a delightful Gillian Parkhouse) and the beastly prince (a shortchanged Chris Cowley who still gives a good performance) have a rather short courtship.

The star attraction of Allan Stewart and Grant Stott are still a delightful hoot. Flash Bobby may not be Stott’s best villain, but he is still easy enough to ‘boo’ and ‘hiss’ while being the butt of many jokes, while Stewart is on usual sharp form with far more gags hitting than not.

One still gets the sense that there’s a gaping hole in everything, and that is with the unfortunate fact that Andy Gray is sadly missing from action. Having to bow out due to poor health, Gray’s understandable absence means some of the shenanigans feel like they’re missing a crucial beat.

But the show must go on, and thankfully this Beast is still on form.

Cinderella ***

Speaking of missing in action, The Krankies make their return to the SEC after a few years’ absence, and to that one must say: thank goodness. Up until The Krankies take to the stage at the end of the show, this Cinderella is a missed opportunity.

It isn’t because it’s bad: it just doesn’t utilise itself well. Musical numbers are fine, if uninspired, and whole scenes pass with barely a titter. Headliners Gavin Mitchell and Jonathan Watson are grotesque as the stepsisters but hardly raise any laughs—a surprise, given Mitchell and Watson’s talents. Keith Jack doesn’t have much stage time as Prince Charming but at least is able to effectively belt out a few pop tunes, and Gemma Lawson makes for a rather charming and sympathetic Cinderella but is oddly, at best, a glorified cameo in what should be her own story.

But it does come back to The Krankies. Ian Krankie is fine as Baron Hardup but Janette Krankie has a blast as a cheeky and scene-stealing Buttons. Together, they get away with a collection of gags that makes the evening enjoyable, culminating in a final set that’s as funny as it seems intent on sticking it to those recent audience members in England who’d complained about how blue some of their set was. Some of their final jokes might make for uncomfortable discussions with kids on the commute back home, but it does at least ensure this production goes out on a hilarious high.

Mammy Goose runs at the Tron Theatre until January 6. Beauty and the Beast runs at the Kings in Edinburgh until January 20. Cinderella runs at the SEC Armadillo until December 30.

Tags: theatre

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