A guide to Scotland’s festive theatre

FANCY going to a show this festive period? Scottish theatre has great panto and much, much more on offer, finds Mark Fisher

Cinderella at Perth Theatre is just one of Scotland's Christmas and New Year productions. Picture: Contributed
Cinderella at Perth Theatre is just one of Scotland's Christmas and New Year productions. Picture: Contributed

Cinderella at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

Once the reigning queen of the Glasgow panto, Elaine C Smith moved her court north in 2009 and was duly embraced by the good citizens of Aberdeen. Since then her shows, with top-quality scripts by Alan McHugh, have gone down a storm.

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What to expect Traditional panto values plus much mirth as Barbara Rafferty plays the Wicked Stepmother opposite Smith’s Fairy Godmother.

• Dates 30 November-5 January.

• If you like this, try Sleeping Beauty, Eden Court, Inverness.

The BFG at Dundee Rep

The Rep has a tradition of family-friendly Christmas shows with a strong narrative drive – and it’s business as usual in this first winter season under the eye of joint artistic directors Philip Howard and Jemima Levick.

What to expect Joe Douglas, star of his own Fringe hit Entertaining Ronnie, directs the Roald Dahl favourite in an adaptation by David Wood. Puppeteer Ross Mackay brings a special perspective on the outsize adventure.

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• Dates 28 November-31 December.

• If you like this, try The Little Mermaid, Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy.

The Selfish Giant and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: the Musical at Edinburgh Festival Theatre

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The EFT’s chic new studio theatre should be a perfect fit for Wee Stories, one of Scotland’s most gifted children’s theatre companies, while the mainstage has a history of offering classy seasonal alternatives.

What to expect Oscar Wilde’s story about a giant whose garden remains in perpetual winter has a haunting power and a poignant moral. In this stage adaptation, actor/director Iain Johnstone promises music, magic and “some pretty extreme weather”. The forecast is not quite so severe in the Berlin musical, which should prove one big romantic treat.

• Dates 3-24 December and 29 November-4 January.

• If you like this, try The LicketyTale of Molly Whuppie, North Edinburgh Arts Centre.

Peter Pan at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott have built up an unassailable reputation as the panto A-team, producing one of the country’s most successful – and funniest – shows. Lest complacency set in, they’re pulling out all the stops for the 2013/14 season.

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What to expect With a new creative team behind the scenes, this swashbuckling panto version of the JM Barrie classic promises a few surprises alongside the boos for Stott’s Captain Hook, the cheers for Gray’s Smee and the swoons for Stewart’s Mrs Smee.

• Dates 30 November-19 January.

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• If you like this, try Sleeping Beauty, Brunton, Musselburgh.

A Christmas Carol at Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

The Lyceum has built its festive reputation on high production values and strong narratives – and they don’t get much stronger than Dickens’ morality tale.

What to expect Susan Boyle’s vocal director Andrew Panton takes his place in the director’s chair promising “lots of music and singing” alongside the fast-paced drama. Christopher Fairbank (Moxey in Auf Wiedersehen Pet) plays Scrooge.

• Dates 28 November-4 January.

• If you like this, try It’s A Wonderful Life, Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

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Ciara and The Polar Bears Go Wild at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Never certain whether to go down the Christmas route or stick with the new writing it does best, the Traverse is offering one thing to adults and another to kids.

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What to expect For grown-ups, it’s a second chance to see Blythe Duff on fine form in David Harrower’s Fringe hit about a Glasgow gangster’s daughter. For the under-fives, it’s a chance to catch up with a much-loved Arctic adventure by Fish and Game first seen in Stirling last year.

• Dates 3-21 December and 5-21 December.

• If you like this, try The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot, MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling.

The Night Before Christmas and A Gay In A Manger at the Arches, Glasgow

Specialising in bijou fairytales for younger audiences and left-of-centre alternatives for the grown-ups, the Arches keeps that underground vibe going for all ages.

What to expect Much enjoyed on its first outing in 2009, Rob Evans’s tale of a girl who has to help a lost elf get back to Father Christmas should delight the under-sevens. Catering to a different market, Tranny and Roseannah’s X-rated romp is billed as “John Waters hosting a festive Noel’s House Party”.

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• Dates 4 December-5 January and 12-21 December.

• If you like this, try The Uglies, Oran Mor.

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The Jungle Book and Bauble Trouble at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

It’s a panto-free zone at the Citz, where seasonal storytelling theatre is the order of the day.

What to expect Stuart Paterson has adapted the Rudyard Kipling favourite about a boy hanging out with the animals for this production featuring acrobatics, hip-hop dance and rap. The under-sixes should head to the Circle Studio for silly songs and slapstick.

• Dates 30 November-5 January and 4-29 December.

• If you like this, try The Snow Queen, Cumbernauld Theatre.

Aladdin at King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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With one of the best casts of the big-city pantos, the King’s stands on a reputation for traditional glitz and daftness that goes back decades.

What to expect With Karen Dunbar as the Slave of the Ring and Des Clarke as Wishee Washee, there’ll be no shortage of laughs – that’s when we’re not cowering at Gavin Mitchell’s Abanazar.

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• Dates 6 December-12 January.

• If you like this, try The New Adventures Of Pinocchio, Pavilion, Glasgow or Dick McWhittington, SECC, Glasgow.

Red Shoes at Tramway, Glasgow

Usually too busy with contemporary art and cutting-edge performance to think about the festive season, the Tramway has undergone a Scrooge-like conversion with its first-ever winter show.

What to expect Pitching at younger children from non-Christian backgrounds, singer, dancer and actor Judith Williams plays Judy Two Shoes, a girl caught between duty and instinct as she wanders between city and forest.

• Dates 29 November-21 December

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• If you like this, try: The Edibles, Platform, Easterhouse.

Peter Panto And The Incredible Stinkerbell and Remember December at Tron Theatre, Glasgow

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With a 25-year history of self-referential panto playfulness, the Tron has, of late, widened its remit to offer something for younger audiences too.

What to expect Even though Johnny McKnight is playing the Dame in Stirling, he’s found time to turn out this Glaswegian take on the JM Barrie classic which, safe to say, will be none too reverential. Meanwhile, the under-sixes can share the dilemmas of a girl who forgets to post her letter to Father Christmas.

• Dates 29 November-4 January and 30 November-24 December

• If you like this, try Beauty And The Beast, MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling.

Cinderella at Perth Theatre

Final show before the theatre closes for a two-year refit and the last to be staged by artistic director Rachel O’Riordan before her departure to Cardiff.

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What to expect Written by the talented Alan McHugh, a veteran of the HMT panto, this rags-to-riches panto stars Helen Mackay in the title role being bossed around by Barrie Hunter and Michael Moreland as Luvvie and Darling, the ugly sisters.

• Dates 6 December-4 January.

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• If you like this, try Pinocchio, Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline.