Passions: Firing up the festive spirit with a Christmas stage show
A strange lull has descended on the world of Scottish theatre at the moment.
But that’s all about to change.
A few weeks from now, venues across the country will be welcoming in the first crowds for what is undoubtedly their biggest season of the year.
Given that, in many cases, they will be launching a show which will run well into 2024, it is little wonder it has also become one of the most important periods for many of Scotland’s leading actors and comics.
Taking in a show has also become one of the most reliable ways to fire up my own festive spirit.
I wasn’t feeling remotely festive after starting a break last December until I took my seat in the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh for its adaptation of A Christmas Carol and it began to cast its spell.
I was something of a late convert to Christmas stage shows. I always associated the festive season with big concerts, indoors in the run-up to Christmas, and outdoors on Hogmanay.
I never quite saw the appeal of watching a panto as a grown adult until I caught the famous King’s Theatre show in Edinburgh about 10 years ago.
The comedy masterclass from the mighty triumvirate of the late Andy Gray, Allan Stewart and Grant Stott seemed effortless but was also awe-inspiring given the amount of work they had clearly put in to their routines and repartee.
I was similarly blown away at the start of this year on a last-minute trip to the King’s Theatre panto in Glasgow, where dazzling double act of Elaine C Smith and Johnny Mac pack in the crowds year after year.
The posters on the walls were a reminder of the countless legends of Scottish comedy who had entertained generations of Glaswegians at Christmas, including Stanley Baxter, Rikki Fulton, Gregor Fisher and Gerard Kelly.
But any suggestion that heading to a festive show for a night out may be a thing of the past – especially given competition from streaming services like Netflix and their vast seasonal offerings - is dispelled when you hear how busy venues are with advance bookings for the next few weeks.
Many of these shows fall into the category of festive theatre rather than Christmas panto, but both seem equally popular at the box office.
For all the dazzling effects that you might encounter these days, they also offer a chance to experience entertainment in its purest form.
Brian Ferguson is Arts Correspondent of The Scotsman
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