First published in The Times, Thursday December 16 2021
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.
Continue reading “Panto review: Aladdin – SEC Armadillo”
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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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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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.
Continue reading “Panto review: A Christmas Carol – Dundee Rep”
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.
Continue reading “Panto review: Cinderella – Perth Theatre”
First published in The Times, Wednesday December 11 2019
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.
Continue reading “Review: Jack and the Beanstalk – King’s Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Monday December 17 2018
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.
Continue reading “Review: Cinderella – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Wednesday December 12 2018
Anyone playing pantomime bingo would be shouting “house” long before the end of this year’s show at the Glasgow King’s. The up-for-it audience doesn’t need permission to boo and hiss. No sooner have the fluorescent wristbands and deely boppers been illuminated than the evil Abanazar (George Drennan) is leading the crowd in a chorus of “Oh yes I will!” / “Oh no you won’t!” Before the latecomers have even shuffled into their seats, we’ve heard the gag about Widow Twankey (Elaine C Smith) being “the best scrubber in Old Peking”.
Continue reading “Review: Aladdin – King’s Theatre, Glasgow”
First published in The Times, Friday August 17 2018
The Fringe is overflowing with verbatim shows, but there is little to match this latest piece from the award-winning Breach Theatre. While we usually associate verbatim work with contemporary issues and events, this new play is based on surviving transcripts of the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of Artemesia Gentileschi, the Italian baroque painter who became the first woman to be admitted to the Accademia delle Arte del Disegno in Florence.
Continue reading “Review: It’s True, It’s True, It’s True – Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh”
First published in The Times, Wednesday August 15 2018
Most speculative writing takes its inspiration from the way we live now. The action of Gary McNair’s two-hander begins in 2042, but there is nothing high-tech about the playwright’s vision of the future. His protagonists, Agnes (Pauline Knowles) and Jim (George Docherty), live in a tiny house surrounded by threadbare furniture. The greatest luxury the couple can afford is a rare Blue Riband biscuit, ordered online and cherished like vintage malt whisky.
Continue reading “Review: After the Cuts – Summerhall, Edinburgh”