Pantomime review: Snow White – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Saturday December 24 2022


This is the legendary King’s panto, but not as we know it. We’re definitely not in Kansas, or even at the King’s theatre, currently undergoing refurbishment. Allan Stewart, in his annual outing as the dame, Nurse May, has to stop for a breather as he scurries across the stage. “If this were the King’s I’d be there by now,” he pants.

As the backdrop is bigger, so elements of the show have swollen to epic proportions, not least when it comes to the stage effects. Jordan Young, playing Muddles, the palace jester, closes the first act with a sleigh ride that soars above the stalls. An enormous dragon, half the size of the auditorium, also puts in a brief appearance.

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Pantomime review: Beauty and the Beast – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Sunday December 4 2022


Somewhere, faintly in the background, almost drowned out by the music and singing onstage and the delighted cries from the audience, you can just about hear the clatter of the kitchen sink being thrown at this year’s King’s pantomime. And why not? As Elaine C Smith reminds us in the show’s finale, this is the first time since 2019 that the panto has gone up without restrictions. Even last year’s run was sadly curtailed when Omicron appeared like the dark fairy at a christening.

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Panto review: Jack and the Beanstalk – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday November 28 2022


We are in the village of Mickle Muchty, in the shadow of Beinn Mucklemichty, a peak as formidable as the north face of the Eiger, and the rumoured home to a fearsome giant. The setting for this year’s Perth panto also bears a remarkable resemblance to the Fair City, with its references to Murrays Bakers and karaoke night at the Bee Bar.

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Panto review: Aladdin – SEC Armadillo

First published in The Times, Thursday December 16 2021

Three Stars

Aladdin is one of the most reliable pantomime stories of all time, but this one seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. Are we in old Peking, the Middle East or somewhere closer to home? Is Abanazar (Sanjeev Kohli) a villain in the louche George Sanders mode, or is it just loveable Navid from the BBC sitcom Still Game? Even the hero, whom everyone else on stage calls Aladdin, would rather go by the more prosaic moniker of Gary.

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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.

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Panto review: Sleeping Beauty – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Wednesday December 8 2021


A palpable sense of excitement is in the air as the legendary King’s pantomime returns following a two-year absence. Yet this production of Sleeping Beauty also comes with a bittersweet edge. A notable absence from the cast list is Andy Gray – for 20 years one of the stars of the show alongside Allan Stewart and Grant Stott – who died earlier this year.

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Panto review: A Christmas Carol – Dundee Rep

First published in The Times, Tuesday December 7 2021


It is no easy task to find new ways of staging Dickens’s seasonal tale of greed and redemption. Its familiarity is what makes it such a mainstay of Christmas theatre. One of the pleasures of this production is its willingness to play with our expectations, both as regards the story and the conventions of festive theatre.

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Panto review: Cinderella – Perth Theatre

First published in The Times, Monday November 29 2021


“I’m a wee bit out of practice,” gasps dame Barrie Hunter, catching his breath and straightening his wig following a strenuous opening number, “it’s been a couple of years.” This moment of witty adlib contains more than a hint of poignancy. It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since audiences cheered and booed along to Perth’s pre-lockdown festive outing, Sinbad.

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Review: Jack and the Beanstalk – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Wednesday December 11 2019

Three Stars

The opening voiceover from football legend Graeme Souness, encouraging grown-ups to turn off their phones and “turn up” their children, is surplus to requirements. This, after all, is the Glasgow King’s panto, where excitement levels are set high from the outset and frequently rise to the pitch of frenzy.

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Review: Cinderella – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday December 17 2018

Three Stars

Manchester’s loss is Glasgow’s gain. Last Christmas, the legendary comedy pairing of Ian and Janette Tough aka the Krankies, along with their performing partner-in-crime John Barrowman, hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when their innuendo-laden production of Dick Whittington at the Manchester Opera House attracted a barrage of complaints from outraged panto-goers.

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