Review: Jack and the Beanstalk – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

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First published in The Times, Friday December 22 2017

Three Stars

Comic turns have always taken precedence over the romantic leads in pantomime. Widow Twankey regularly gets higher billing than her own son. Sarah the Cook is generally further up the food chain than Dick Whittington. Even at the ball the Ugly Sisters and Buttons tend to outshine poor Cinderella.

 

In the case of the Armadillo’s panto, the roll call of comedians and celebrities is brasher and starrier than at any other seasonal offering in Scotland. After all, this is no ordinary festive show, but a “giant pantomime spectacular”.

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Review: Shrek the Musical – Edinburgh Playhouse

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First published in The Times, Wednesday December 20 2017

Three Stars

It would be fair to say that stage musicals inspired by animated films have something of a chequered history. The experimental director and designer Julie Taymor gave Disney’s screen-to-stage version of The Lion King a truly theatrical treatment that still stands up 18 years on from its premiere. Other shows from the same stable, including lavish productions of Tarzan and The Little Mermaid, failed to exert the same grip on the public imagination.

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Review: Cinderella – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Friday December 15 2017

Four Stars

Some people know each other so well they finish each other’s sentences. This is literally true of the entertainers Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott, the trio that has been at the heart of the King’s Theatre’s annual pantomime for the past 13 years. Whenever one of them struggles to spit out his lines, usually due to cracking up with laughter, the other two are on hand to clear up the verbal clutter – or simply exacerbate the sense of anarchy.

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Review: How to Disappear – Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Thursday December 14 2017

Two Stars 

If you peer closely enough into the murky corners of Becky Minto’s set for this new play by Morna Pearson, you will spot a tiny Christmas tree, lying on its side and pathetically decorated with a couple of strands of tinsel. At the end of the play’s 90-minute running time, snow floats gently down over the stage.

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Review: Aladdin – Perth Theatre

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First published in The Times, Tuesday December 12 2017

Three Stars

There was drama on and offstage at the opening performance of Perth’s pantomime. Ten minutes before the finale, a few too many puffs of smoke triggered the newly refurbishment theatre’s fire alarm system, dispatching cast, crew and audience onto the High Street for an impromptu second interval. Everyone involved took the disruption in good grace. The fire fighters were even called onstage to take a bow when the action resumes.

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Review: A Christmas Carol – Dundee Rep

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First published in The Times, Wednesday December 6 2017

Three Stars

This year’s Christmas show at Dundee Rep (the ensemble’s first under its new artistic director Andrew Panton) represents a welcome return to festive themes. The company has spent the past four Christmases mining the unseasonal tales of Roald Dahl, from The BFG to George’s Marvellous Medicine.

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Review: Alice in Wonderland – Northern Stage, Newcastle

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First published in The Times, Tuesday December 5 2017

Four Stars

In true Wonderland style, the sign above the bar at Northern Stage reads: “We’re all mad here!” Yet the young audience members who have gone to the trouble of dressing up in spotless pinafores and Alice bands look out of step with what’s happening onstage. This festive show may share its title with the enduring classic but its raucous tone is a world away from Lewis Carroll.

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