Panto review: Cinderella – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Thursday December 9 2021

THREE STARS

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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Review: Goldilocks and the Three Bears – King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

First published in The Times, Tuesday December 10 2019

Three Stars

Excitement levels in the auditorium at this year’s King’s pantomime are even higher than usual. The first reason is the return of Andy Gray, one third of the regular performing team alongside Allan Stewart and Grant Stott, who missed last year’s show due to illness. When he appears onstage and launches into his catchphrase (“I’ve no been very well…”) the applause is long and heartfelt.

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Review: Mammy Goose – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

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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Review: Bingo! – Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

 

First published in The Times, Monday March 11 2018

Two Stars

In many ways, the bingo hall is the ideal place in which to set a site-specific show. Like live theatre at its best, a night at the bingo is a collective experience that’s a little different every time, leaving its participants trembling on the edge of their seats, on the verge of elation or disappointment.

 

It is surprising that this new musical comedy, produced by Stellar Quines in collaboration with Grid Iron, the leading company specialising in site-specific work in Scotland, makes no attempt to fully immerse its audience within such a giddy atmosphere. We watch the action unfold against the glittery backdrop of Carys Hobbs and Becky Minto’s set at one remove, and the experience is akin to spying on a party to which we haven’t been invited.

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Review: The Snaw Queen – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Wednesday December 7 2016

Four Stars

 

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.

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Review: Witness for the Prosecution – Dundee Rep

First published in The Times, Tuesday March 8 2016

Three Stars

It would appear there are two possible approaches that can be taken when dramatising the crime fiction of Agatha Christie. The BBC may have made a bold attempt to inject some social context and depth of characterisation into their recent dark adaptation of And Then There Were None. Yet, the work of the Queen of Crime is still more familiar to stage and screen audiences as a kind of camp pageant, in which characters with all the complexity of Cluedo figurines gather to hear the solution to what amounts to an intricate puzzle.

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Reviews: The Witches – Dundee Rep; Sleeping Betty – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

First published in The Times, Monday December 7 2015

The Witches: Three Stars

Sleeping Betty: Three Stars

A Roald Dahl adaptation at Dundee Rep has become as much a staple of the Christmas season as mince pies. This is the third year in a row that the ensemble has staged one of David Wood’s adaptations of the celebrated author’s twisted children’s tales, with a production of George’s Marvellous Medicine already slated for next year.

 

Like George’s potion or the formula developed by the Grand High Witch to turn children into mice, at its best Dahl’s absurdist, somewhat menacing sensibility is a recipe for dark theatrical magic. Jemima Levick’s production of The Witches certainly doesn’t lack pungent set pieces, notably the anarchic hotel dining room sequence, in which the tale’s boy-to-mouse hero (Matthew Forbes) tries to turn the tables on the dastardly coven. The show gains further levity from its use of live music, developed by Gavin Swift and performed live.

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