Theatre review: Cinderella, King’s Theatre, Glasgow

AH, THE world of panto. So many strands, so many ingredients, so much that can go wrong. Sometimes, though – by good luck, and sheer inspiration – it all comes together in a formula that becomes a real embodiment of Christmas joy and conviviality; and something like that happens at this year’s big Glasgow panto in the King’s, a gorgeous, sparkling version of Cinderella designed to make little kids breathless with the magic of it all, while grown-ups roll in the aisles with laughter.

By comparison with the much shorter Edinburgh King’s panto, this glorious show – served up by traditional panto specialists First Family Entertainment, and directed by Tony Cownie – delivers the full panto package, and takes almost three hours to do it. There are two hilariously ghastly Ugly Sisters in Gordon Cooper and an inspired Gavin Mitchell. There’s a real handsome Prince with a fine singing voice in Kieran Brown. There’s a fine new young Buttons in Des Clarke; and above all, there’s Karen Dunbar’s irresistible Fairy Godmother, plucked from the audience in raincoat and bobble-hat, and transformed into the mouthy but increasingly gorgeous presiding spirit of the whole show.

The result is a show stuffed with terrific old jokes, and new ones that nail the absurdity of our celebrity-obsessed age; with a perfectly spun-out ghost scene, and a great traditional song-sheet and singing competition. And above all, there’s a transformation scene to bring a tear to the most jaded eye, complete with little white ponies and real, glittering pumpkin coach. So hang your cynicism on a coat-peg, beg, borrow or steal a few tickets, and head for the King’s. It’s not a perfect panto, and it’s sometimes just a shade self-indulgent; but it captures the very essence of topsy-turvey, Christmas magic.

Rating: ****