First published in The Times, Wednesday December 7 2016
Imagine Hans Christian Andersen, John Waters and a young Pedro Almódovar getting together for Christmas and you have some measure of the lurid delights of this year’s Tron panto. The title is, of course, derived from Andersen’s wintry classic, but the mix of bawdy, outrageous fun and good, old-fashioned pantomime tradition, is pure Johnny McKnight.
He writes, directs and reprises his role as Santa, aka Kristine “Cagney” Kringle, who made her first appearance on the Tron stage in McKnight’s Miracle on 34 Parnie Street a couple of years ago. In the intervening period, Kristine’s enormous inflatable rear end has grown ever more buoyant, her hairdo has added a couple of inches in height and her frocks and boots, designed by Kenny Miller, appear to twinkle more vibrantly than ever.
Pic: John Johnston
A defining feature of the Tron’s festive show is the sense of how far a modest budget can be stretched when the performing talent is of the highest quality. This year is no exception. The versatile, six-strong cast switch among multiple roles with zest; the songs, composed by Ross Brown, are catchy, and the choreography, by Darren Brownlie, while demanding, is energetically tackled.
As ever, there is a strong flavour of boundaries of taste and effrontery being pushed to their limits, much to the delight of audience members of all ages. The storyline, such as it is, makes the Seventies Hammer Horror film Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde look like a model of restraint. In McKnight’s version, an accident involving an enchanted mirror transforms loveable Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (Brownlie) into the malevolent Snaw Queen (Brownlie again, poured into a pink body stocking and resplendent in Marlene Dietrich wig).
Pic: John Johnston
The rest of the running time involves Kristine and her motley crew of helpers embarking on a quest to return Rudolph to his original form before the baddie does away with Christmas forever. The characters we meet en route (elves, a talking penguin, a gun totin’ cowgirl and Elvis) are such a random bunch that you begin to wonder if the dramatis personae was constrained by what costumes happened to be lying around backstage.
Who cares, though, when you have such a great script, rich in topical and local references, hilarious impromptu banter, sing-alongs, a sweetie shower, and of course, multiple opportunities for McKnight’s Kristine to plant her ample bottom and glittery lips on unsuspecting male members of the audience.