Theatre review: Dick McWhittington, Glasgow

John Barrowman and the Krankies leave no double entendre unturned. Picture: Robert Perry
John Barrowman and the Krankies leave no double entendre unturned. Picture: Robert Perry
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IF YOU like your panto naughty, there’s only one place for you this Christmas.

Dick McWhittington - SECC, Glasgow

* * * *

In the Clyde Auditorium at the SECC, John Barrowman and the Krankies consolidate their successful Glasgow partnership – now in its fourth year – with a Dick Whittington that leaves no double entendre unturned, extracts knowing laughs from Barrowman’s status as a gay man playing a straight hero, and makes plenty of space for classic routines from Ian and Janette Krankie, with Janette in her classic role of “durrty wee boy” turned ventriloquist’s dummy.

It’s not that there’s no straightforward family fun in this glitzy Dick, relocated to a Glasgow where King Rat and his minions want to wreck the Commonwealth Games. The kids by me enjoyed it mightily, from the first appearance of Pete Gallagher’s snarling villain, to the last swish of the tail from Lukus Alexander’s gorgeous cat. The script, by Alan McHugh and Jonathan Kiley, makes a witty attempt to give this classic London story a contemporary Glasgow twist, despite the half-timbered sets and elaborate English-medieval costumes.

And while there’s no Dame and no final song-sheet, there are plenty of other traditional panto features, from a tongue-twisting nonsense sequence, to the ghost scene, the 3D sequence, and the glittering song-and-dance set-pieces, with Barrowman in fine form.

The only problem is that just here and there, the tone seems so ironic, so smutty, and so self-consciously showbiz that it cancels out any sense of magical Christmas storytelling. The audience seems happy enough; yet there’s a sense of panto eating away at its own fairytale substance for the sake of a quick, sleazy laugh – and that, at this most wonderful time of the year, seems a shame.