IT’S difficult to imagine a panto with fewer pretensions to high art than the annual Christmas show at the Edinburgh King’s.
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Star rating: * * *
Big, bright, brief, and brash, without a trace of poetry, it aims to amuse, in classic variety style; so that even when it takes on the timely moral tale of Mother Goose – a chubby older woman seduced by vanity into putting the demon’s promise of renewed youth and beauty before the genuine love of friends and family – it plays the story almost entirely for laughs.
So it’s in lighthearted, showtime vein that Paul Elliott’s 2012 panto skips through the woods and vales of Lochforest, Edinburgh’s mythical panto village. The show retains a strong nodding acquaintance with those panto conventions it finds congenial, including Allan Stewart’s exuberant Dame, the traditional tongue-twisting dialogue sequence, and the onstage team of tiny dancers from a local dance school; but it briskly dispenses with many others, from the Principal Boy to the song-sheet. And local jokes and topical references are thin on the ground, although there is a sequence on the trams, nicely integrated into the story.
What remains intact, though, is the powerful panto-chemistry among the show’s three stars, Allan Stewart, Andy Gray, and flying villain Grant Stott; and the brilliantly easy-going audience participation. At the end, when Gray and Stewart sing a brief, yearning ballad to bring the goose Priscilla home, we catch a brief glimpse of the drama and magic this team could whip up, if they chose. For now, though, they choose showbiz pizazz over romance and tradition; and to judge by the giant smiles, there’s nothing much wrong with that.