LIKE many of the Shakespeare shows he creates for Glasgow’s Bard In The Botanics season, Gordon Barr’s first panto for the Byre Theatre is a vivid mix of the brilliantly inventive and the slightly misjudged.
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The story is Snow White; but although Gillian Ford’s gloriously nasty queen looks every inch the conventional glamorous villainess, it’s clear from the start that Barr’s Snow White, as played by Stephanie MacGregor, is no ordinary simpering princess. Instead, she’s a teenage rebel with her nose in a book, not over-impressed by Prince Valiant’s flashing teeth and muscular good looks; and there are plenty of laughs, and some genuinely touching moments, in the evolving romance between these two, which ends with the princess, as hero of the story, having to kiss her comatose prince back to life.
All of which might be enough for one inventive, 21st-century take on a familiar tale; but Barr also throws in everything but the panto kitchen sink, including a jolly but slightly redundant Dame played with gusto by Alan Steele, a long-winded Buttons figure in Muddles the jester, a Fairy Of The Mirror who doubles as a text-speaking comedy turn and leader of delightful fairy dance troupe the Mirrorettes, and the wholesale replacement of the seven dwarfs with a gang of feral woodland kids, played, like the Mirrorettes, by local youth theatre talent.
At times, in other words, it’s all just a bit self-consciously clever and over-ingenious, in an art form whose cheerful chaos swirls best around a clear, simple central narrative. If the kindly old Christmas spirit is sometimes lacking, though, this remains a good-looking, witty show, with theatrical energy to burn; and audiences at St Andrews are clearly delighted to see the Byre get its panto mojo back, after years of children’s Christmas shows that were often too polite by half, for the jolly old season of misrule.