Review: Cinderella – SEC Armadillo, Glasgow

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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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Review: Kinky Boots – Edinburgh Playhouse

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First published in The Times, Friday December 14 2018

Three Stars

The Tony award-winning musical Kinky Boots, with a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by the pop star Cyndi Lauper, had an unusual genesis. The story of a failing Northampton shoe factory, whose owner switches production from brogues to good-quality footwear for drag queens, began life 20 years ago as an episode of the BBC documentary series Trouble at the Top, which depicted the trials and tribulations of business executives. A low-budget feature film passed under the radar in 2005. Continue reading

Review: Aladdin – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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First published in The Times, Wednesday December 12 2018

Three Stars

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”.

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Review: A Christmas Carol

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First published in The Times, Monday December 10 2018

Two Stars

The transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge from “tight-fisted hand at the grindstone” to a man who “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge” is as much a fixture of the season as advent calendars and fairy lights. Neil Bartlett’s stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’s tale is a perennial favourite because it so perfectly captures the blend of melancholy and compassion in the story, without recourse to sentimentality.

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Review: The Snow Queen – Dundee Rep

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First published in The Times, Monday December 10 2018

Four Stars

The Snow Queen is no stranger to Dundee Rep. The most recent production of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, in 2012, starred the aptly named Emily Winter in the role of the icy monarch, negotiating a pine forest on stilts.

 

As one of the longer-serving members of the Rep ensemble, Winter also appears in this latest incarnation, though this time in the role of the Summer Princess, ruler of a balmy, fruit pastille-coloured region the heroine Gerda (Chiara Sparkes) has to pass through on her way to the frozen north.

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Review: Wendy and Peter Pan – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

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First published in The Times, Thursday December 6 2018

Three Stars

In outline, Ella Hickson’s adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s tale of the “boy who wouldn’t grow up” doesn’t look especially radical. Wendy and Peter have their first encounter in the nursery as Peter hunts his errant shadow. Lost Boys, pirates, mermaids and vengeful crocodiles populate Neverland. The curtain comes down on the first act with the hero, apparently mortally wounded, uttering the immortal line: “to die will be an awfully big adventure.”

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Review: Mammy Goose – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

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First published in The Times, Tuesday December 4 2018

Four Stars

The annual Tron pantomime is not exactly renowned for its restraint. This year, every gaudy element has been dialled up to the max. The baroque colour palette of Kenny Miller, the designer, feels more intense than ever. The amount of glitter and PVC on display makes Lady Gaga’s stage costumes look refined. The script, written by Johnny McKnight, who also directs and stars as the titular matriarch, is dizzyingly dense in pop cultural references.

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