the evening, it also meets with commendable cynicism irom the nine year olds.

This is a shame, torthe rest oi the cast make more than is justified irom a weak script (even by panto standards). Greig Alexander and Alicia Devine sing the inevitable Kylie and Jason song well enough and play that slightly more traditional aspect oi panto -the love scene suitably over the top to keep the Brownies amused rather than nauseous. Also, mention must be made oi Paul Morrow as a Dame deprived oi the usual ostentatious costumes andgiven, as tar as i could tell, only one genuinely lunny line, but who keeps the audience laughing even when the novelty oi a butch six iooter in women’s clothes has worn oil.

By the end, though, the kids were still rushing to get their coats on. And, ior once, i guess they were trying to escape the hero rather than the villain. (Philip Parr)


Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh. Bun Ended. The iirst snow oi the winter managed to deter a sizable chunk oi Leltheatre's expected audience on the night I saw their contribution to this year’s seasonal merriment. It is not without irony, thereiore, when the show opens with a number whose retrain is ‘It is summer'. It quite clearly isn’t summer, but it is to the company’s credit that they can hold the attention at a small audience on a cold night in a theatre not renowned tor tavourabie acoustics. But Leitheatre have set themselves a much greater challenge than an uniavourable climate. lknow this is not the time tor deep and meaninglui theatre, but pantomime also has its standards and i can't help testing that The Queen at Hearts, as a musical play, is second-rate. Leltheatre are certainly worthy and easily capable oi something better.

' John Sessions, whilst he looks like he‘sjust had a session.

Periormances are unilormly assured, precise and convincing, but the story is so light-weight that it requires all the energy the actors can muster to keep us interested in it. Loosely based on the popular nursery rhyme, the plot concerns nothing more riveting than the theit oi a tray oijam tarts and while that may be at great interest to the pre-school age group, it is oi limited appeal to a general audience. We end up with a Baddie who is not especially bad, a Candle who is not especially good and thus a conilict that is not especially dynamic.

And this is a great shame, because the actors are sharp on timimg, relaxed In their movement- it a little weak on slapstick- and adaptable enough to switch with comiort into their song and dance routines. I’d like to have seen a bit more brashness, less lnottenslveness and more cartoon-like comedy, but on the whole this is a highly proiicient company who are well worth checking out when they lind a more demanding play. (Mark Fisher)


léing’s Theatre, Edinburgh. Until 17


Barely have so many bad jokes been so entertaining. The three hours at the King's are jam-packed with one-liner alter corny one-liner delivered with the kind oi comic panache that only the likes oi Una Mclean and Russell Hunter know how. Where is London? On the Thames. Where Is Glasgow? 0n the Clyde. Where is Edinburgh? 0n the broo.

Catch this show early on in its run and you’ll see these pertormers enjoying every minute at their time on stage. Una Mclean radiates comic bonhommle as she comandeers the role oi the Game, casting oil the character’s more bumptlous traits, but

developing her lriendly sparkle and punch-line wit. She’s at her best in a


classroom sketch at the Mary Erskine Comprehensive, where the jokes rattle out in the midst oi slapstick comedy and Laurel and Hardy-style visual gags. Alan Stewart relies too much on his stock-ln-trade Impressions (and he’s still doing Frank Spenceri), but leilow baddle, Russell Hunter, helps snap him out oi it and the two are developing a neat, it not yet lully rounded, double-act. Anita Harris plays Robin Hood with the bland gloss associated with the Principal Boy, but even she seems to be having a good time oi it.

inevitably in a show so ilrmly entrenched in the Variety tradition there are some bits you preier to others. l’d be happy with iewer oi the song and dance numbers (although calling one jig ‘The Leith Walk’ is inspired), but no doubt your granny would disagree. There are, in any case, less oi these sequences than irom what i remember oi last year’s Mother Goose, and they are always exceptionally colourlul with some tine costumes and sets. As a special treat there is a very amusing periormance irom the Acromaniacs, who combine clowning and acrobatics in a high-precision act. As a vehicle ior highly polished set routines, you can’t beat this kind at panto.

This is institutionalised sillieness at its best. The kids love it and the adults love the kids loving it. Essential Christmas viewing. (Mark Fisher)


Muirhouse Primary School, Edinburgh. Bun ended.

They don’t do things by halves at the Muirhouse Festival Association. Not content with the standard good-guy versus bad-guy plot, they have no less than six Baddles and six Goodies to battle their rather Ineilectual way through the show, beiore everything is sewn up by the tar more together pantomime horse. it's a wonder that they lind the space on the school stage to accommodate so many periormers with so many elaborate costumes.

On an excellent monochrome, cartoon set, everyone irom Peter Pan (dressed as a World Warl pilot), Aladdin and Cinders to the Wicked Fairy, Captain Hook (with a multi-biade hand attachment) and an Ugly Sister, drop out oi a children’s story book and decide to have one big adventure oi their own. With help irom the toys in the local toy shop, a little organisational skill irom the horse and an all-important spot at magic irom a drunken, post-party Santa, the Goodies retain their special powers and the Baddles get their come-uppance.

The children in the audience are totally absorbed by all the to-ings and iro-lngs which Inventiver take up the whole theatre space. (When one charcter towards the end ol the show asks about what has been happening, several voices irom the audience pipe up, ‘Weii . . .'). An excellent seven-strong band provide an original

musical backing - Horsetown 85302 is a highlight- and it’s a shame that they weren’t used even more. There is, however, an unpredictable pace caused largely by actors not being slick enough with their lines, and as a result the plot has a tendency to drag and several good jokes are lost. But there are strong, lively pertormances irom several actors, notably Amanda Dunnlgan as an Ugly Sister, Alison Kermack as the Wicked Fairy, Alan Hosey as Aladdin and Alex Mouat as the tatooed, evil Thatch. (Mark Fisher)

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Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock. Until 23 December.

This is an ambitious attempt by a small provincial theatre to mount its own

production. Such eiiorts are to be

commended: as any member oi the prolesslon will tell you, the quality oi national theatre depends upon its ability to extend its proiile beyond the big urban centres. The trouble is, however, that low budgets can often lead to disaster; eltherthe acting isn’t up to scratch, or the sets tail down, or maybe the lights go out at exactly the wrong moment. You know the sort oi thing. In this particularcase the problem is with sound. Jack and the Beanstalk is, l’m airaid, barely audible.

This is a bit oi a shame, because, irom what I could make out, the show has a great deal going ior it. There are some nice, tunetui songs, plenty oi audience participation and some imaginative set designs. The acting is line, and the lead characters (Neil Owen and William Armour) have a good rapport with a young audience. There is even a plausible villain.

The trouble is that, without sound, the whole thing seems disjointed. Anyone standing more than ten ieet irom the microphone is inaudible, and some oi the minor characters iade away completely. The plot is the iirst thing to go, and there are occasions when the whole thing seems as it it is being periormed irom the inside at a goldiish bowl.

There is no reason why, on the evidence at this production, the Palace Theatre should not establish its own

: permanent company. This is an ' entertaining show despite the poor

sound quality. But they should really consider Investing in a iew more microphones. (Philip Kingsley)

The List 22 Dccember1989~ 11 January 199047