Panto review: Cinderella – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday December 9 2021


The Fairy Godmother of All Pantos is the strapline for the big show at the Glasgow King’s this year, a reference not only to the pre-eminence of Cinderella within the canon but also the popularity of its star, Elaine C Smith, one of the few women in the business with a marquee name.

Once again, this great dame teams up onstage with the light entertainer Johnny Mac, who makes his first appearance riding on a motorised toilet seat. “You’ve heard of the pooper scooper,” he says, “well, this is my pooper scooter.” There is a nice chemistry to their pairing: she the fond if exasperated mama to his unworldly dummling, and as ever the pair does the lion’s share of the comic heavy lifting in Kathryn Rooney’s production for Crossroads Pantomimes.

Pic: Douglas Robertson

A very welcome addition to this year’s cast is Darren Brownlie (playing Dandini), a gifted comic actor who also happens to be a classically trained dancer and choreographer. Both proficiencies are to the fore in the show’s funniest set piece: a dance-off, in which Brownlie’s en-pointe precision and spectacular spins prove no match for a shambling rendition of that wedding dance-floor favourite, the slosh, performed by Smith and Mac.

Visually, there is much to feast on here, not least the beautiful white coach that takes flight at the end of Act One, stunning costumes designed by Ron Briggs and Simon Wilkinson’s superb lighting designs, while the musical backup and choreography are incredibly tight. Such splendid packaging in some ways compensates for an inconsistent script, by the prolific panto writer Alan McHugh, which at times relies on a superhuman effort from the stars in order for some of the more superannuated jokes to land.

Pic: Douglas Robertson

The show also misses a really dislikeable villain. While Angela Darcy and Joanne McGuinness are funny and entertaining as Cinders’s stepsisters, Clatty Patty and Hairy Mary, they’re too ridiculous to be really threatening, and a little underused. For once, though, the romantic pairing of Christopher Jordan-Marshall as Prince Charming and Tinashe Warikandwa as Cinderella is more than a sideshow. We’ve become accustomed to the colourful flamboyance and slick production values of the Crossroads panto but Jordan-Marshall and Warikandwa give the story a bit of heart too.

Box office: 0333 0096690, to January 2.

Author: Allan Radcliffe

I am a writer, freelance journalist, subeditor and theatre critic, based in South Queensferry. My short fiction has been published in anthologies such as Out There, Elsewhere, The Best Gay Short Stories, ImagiNation, Markings, Gutter, New Writing Scotland and Celtic View. I have won the Scottish Book Trust's New Writer's Award and several of my stories have been adapted for broadcast on BBC Radio 4. As a journalist I write regularly for The Times, the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald, Sunday Times, Metro, Big Issue and I was formerly assistant editor of The List magazine.

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