involved and responding wildly the nightlsawthe show.

The Magic Snowball also boasts several characters who will seem predictable toiollowers oiWildcatand

' more than a little iamiliarto most adults. but not. I suspect. to children. The appeal oi Malcolm Boughkind is due not to his similarity to any person living or dead nor his subservience to the Wicked Witch oi the South so much astothe silliness oi PeterMullan‘s periormance and costume (one oi a numberoistrokes oibrilliance by designerAnnette Gillies). The overt political theme seemsto represent little more than a nudge and a wink to Good Socialist parents. and although it is cleverly worked in. there is no real attempttowards eitherphysical resemblance or indoctrination. and it has no great eilect— positive or negative—on the show‘s considerable success. (Andrew Burnet)


Theatre Workshop. Edinburgh

It takes a moment to realise that the elegantmovements oiCaroline Baker as The Woman With The Bone are something more than a stylistic device to emphasise the magical nature oi her character. Her gracelully choreographed gestures are unobtrusively incorporating hand signalsiorthe deal.

Janet Fenton's play is an absorbing story that champions the power oi the imagination and the beliei in mythological creatures. While sceptical grown-ups cast their doubts. the youthiul Sava (played convincingly by Pauline Crawiord) sets out on a

mission to rescue a unicorn irom danger

Comic reliei is provided by Cad and Micad (Steven McNicolI and Gary McTaggart respectively). an Abbott and Costello double act Whose dozy antics go down a treat with the children in the audience.

Karen Tennent's set-design brilliantly encompasses both the dark mysteriousness oi the iorest and the brightness oi a market garden complete with its own stream. This is especially admirable given the size oi the Theatre Workshop stage and much credit mustgoto Allan Woolie‘s lighting lor making iull use oi the stage design.

Too much oi the plot is buried in riddles instead oi being explained to us in actions, however. and it is

everyone is behaving as they are. or what the magic is actually achieving (we never get to see a unicorn). Nonetheless. the smooth proiessionalism oi all aspects oi the production was suilicient on the day I saw it to captivate the lively audience oi children ior every one oi its ninety minutes. (Mark Fisher)


King‘s Theatre, Edinburgh This year's panto at the King‘s Theatre, Mother Goose, is a showbiz extravaganza led by an all-singing, all-dancing cast oi highly proiessional entertainers. Most notable among these is Walter Carr, oi ‘Vital Spark'

lame, who plays the Dame, Mother

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. Pinocchio

' Goose, herseli. No run-oi-the-mill

padded and lewd dame this, but rather a wry and warm Glesca granny, trim in tweed and twinset. Her raw wit

: maniiests itseli in sallies such as: ‘This

wiiie said to her man that it was her leatherwedding anniversary. So, he

gave her a belt in the mooth.‘ Gregor .. Fisher is Mother Goose‘s hopelessly

wronglooted son, Gussie, who plays all

3 Walter Carr in quick-lire comic duets. .' Mother Goose and son overshadow the

other periormers, butJuliet Cadzow

delivers a chilling periormance as evil

Dragonara, the witch, who is toiled by

the cheeky YFTS (young iairies training heme) lairy, Audrey Blake.

: (MargaretMallon)


St Brides Centre, Edinburgh

Alteriive years oi seemingly continuous success and a string oi Fringe Firsts, Communicado turn their increasingly distinctive style to the creation oi their iirst Christmas Show. Commissioned irom piaywrightJohn

. Harvey, A Bicycle to the Moon has

allowed the company to realise its commitmentto working with local communities in Edinburgh —the show‘s two-week run involves more than 150 schoolchildren in the Gorgie/Dairy area as ‘the celestial choir oi angels‘.

The distinctly iuzzy storyline revolves around two endearing tramps, Maggie i and Wilberiorce. They are used as

sleeping guinea pigs iorthe battle between the nightmares perpetrated by

the evil Dream Factory oi Mrs Midnight

and the sweet dreams oi Charlie the Dream Inspector and the celestial choir. Amongst all this, Kipper McCool

': rides the wobbly ireeway oi sometimes diiticult to keep up with why 3

imagination on his shiny BMX bike, although in tact his initial plans are

only to make it to the chippy. It you like ' your Christmas ion with philosophy,

A then you can ponder in depth as the old i metaphor oi the theatre being the place I where dreams come true is played oil against the nightmares oi Mrs Midnight f and Co. which all seem to involve the

; horrors oi being made to periorm as a


The plotting that weaves together dream, nightmare and reality is undeniably convoluted, but it doesn‘t really matter. The Communicado staging under Gerry Mulgrew is wildy exuberant and witty, iull oi knockabout (expertly handled by dancer Frank McConnell), pyrotechnics and wonderiui mobile sets. The children‘s

choir do themselves proud. ilowing easily on and oil the stage —their iirst appearance twangles the heart-strings like something out oi 3 Walt Disney extravaganza.

The iiery energy oi the band playing Michael Marra‘s rich and varied musical score is what carries the show‘s disparate elements through to theirconclusion, the race to the moon between dreamboy Kipper and Mrs Midnight‘s accomplice Spode. (Simon Bayly)


Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

ii there is a drawback to the storytelling approach oi the Christmas show as opposed to the slapstick oi the traditional pantomime, it is the necessary but diiticult task oi ensuring that the plot comes across.

The Citizens Pinocchio, directed by Giles Havergal, demonstrates how diiticult it can be to explain succinctly what‘s going on at the start without a character on stage explaining who‘s who. Important story points, as well as introductions, have to be made through the dialogue and I was getting a bit restless.

But there is magic at work in Myles Budge’s adaptation and Stewart Laing has come up with some oi the wittiest and most colouriul sets I've seen in panto. At its best the sets in this production all but tell the story. The sequence oi scenes that dominates the second haii, taking Pinocchio to Pleasure island via an airbourne carriage and away again via a rait, is beautiiully conceived. A three dimensional picture book, there is even a ‘close up' irame iilling the whole stage oi Benjamin the Cricket (David McKay) in the pocket oi the coachman.

This sequence also contains a really imaginative use at the song sheet. Stuck in the belly oi a shark, Pinocchio and his iriends sing a lullaby in orderto get out (to make the shark yawn, oi course). When it iails to work they hit upon the idea at changing the words to make them more appealing to sharks. The result, as well as being very iunny, is an instant rhymers' guide, and English lit lesson on context.

‘Who is that boy?‘ said the child in iront at me when Alec Westwood

returned not as Pinocchio but as the toy

maker's real son after the dream was over. We may not have passed the

comprehension test, but we enjoyed ourselves. (Nigel Billen)



Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh ‘He wants to blow up the Queen and wear down the carpet‘ cries Mr Horne

as his son Bod makes tree with the

vacuum cleaner. in one periect sentence playwright John McKay sums up the twin concerns at the middle aged. the middle class and the middle brow. Lines like that make Hell Bent On Christmas a joy to listen to, although McKay's punchline humour can sometimes seem out oi place underthe constraints oi the play‘s domestic (sur)realism. Somewhere in the hellish bowels oi this Christmas show there‘s a pantomime just itching to get out and it

is a shame that the play‘s explosive

potential is not iully realised more

. oiten. A shame because in combination

with the excellent ensemble acting and

, clever little details like Dad squirming as his long lost daughter sits on his lap

or the subtle progress oi Rod‘s adolescent complexion irom zit to

' elastoplast. the play is always inches

awayirom brilliance. McKay heads straight ior the cutting

t edge oi comedy. Balancing one step

away irom tragedy, he does iorthe image oi the nuclear iamin what Chernobyl did iorthe image oi nuclear power. This isthe voice oi every petulantteenagerwho everwantedto light up at midnight mass and oi every long suilering parent who ever had hopes that the kids would grow up normal. The Devil pops up to point out that tile just isn't likethatand to givea wicked reminder that Christmas, with its attendantiamilyieuds and squabbles, is here again.

Under Ben Twist's direction, the tour actors create a thoroughly believable stage iamily. Anne Myatt as Mrs Horne ireis through her Christmas check list whiletrying to learn herspeechiorthe local historical society. Alistair Cording as her husband struggles patheticallyto impose orderon an increasingly chaotic world. The gangling Stuart Davids as Bod wears Doc Marten's with his pyjamas, while Caroline Paterson as sister Helen iiles hernails on herdevil‘stail. There is an unwritten suggestion that they enjoy yelling at each other and they are

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Hell Bent on Christmas