THEATRE REVIEW F
marm- Babes, pirates, witches and beasts
Mark Fisher enjoys another batch of Christmas shows and out~ of—town pantos.
People often express incredulin about my panto-enthusiasm. but the way i see it. you can enjoy more in the way of energy. imagination and direct contact with the audience at this time of year than at any other. Travelling round this year‘s crop of shows. I am humbled to be reminded of the level of commitment. the three-performances-a- day-and-we‘ll—still-throw-ourselves~ into-the-encore mentality. that keeps them going. Take Beauty and the Beast at Paisley Arts Centre. This one is not only written and directed by the same man. David Wallace. but also he stars in it — at 10.30am. 2pm and 7pm. Thankfully there‘s a happy ending. because the word is out that Wallace is a panto-genius — this is his sixth -- people are travelling from far and wide to see it and as a result you‘ll be lucky to get a seat.
Lucky indeed. because Beauty and the Beast isjust excellent. Traditional in
Jolly Robert and the Pirates from Space: witty inter-galactic romp
spirit. it drops many of the familiar trappings. but holds onto the comedy and the music (a line set of songs by
David Ramsay). while concentrating on I
the story—line. .»\s well as the standard moral about beauty being more than skin-deep. Wallace works in an anti- Fascist message the evil Ratman being somewhere between John Major and Mussolini -- yet at no point does he make these themes explicit in that worthy. heavy-handed way children‘s drama can be. Rather. Beauty and the Beast is damn good fun. not least thanks to Wallace's own sparky performance as Sam the ()ddjob Man. What is particularly special about the show is its clarity. a fundamental
quality often lacking in the bigger-
budget pantos. and this is true right down to the very last extra — if Teams ()ne. Three and Four are as good as Team 'l‘wo. then Paisley Youth Theatre rmrst be the best in the country.
i ()n a similar scale in Edinburgh.
l Theatre Workshop has come up trumps
l with Louise lronside‘s Jolly Robert and
I the Pirates from Space. a witty inter-
! galactic romp involving schoolgirls.
space cadets and the splendidly-named
3 Sir Puffery Thump. In the absence of
Roger. Jolly Robert gets hoisted —- it‘s that sort of a show. And while the adults on the back row are in stitches at
the silly inventiveness of it all. the
children are totally hooked on the
breathless adventures in Scogland.
Particularly strong performances from
Molly lnnes and Shonagh Price as the
wayward Edinburgh schoolgirls (how
7 nice to see a Christmas show where the
' female leads are more than just whiter- l than-white love interest) and another
' imaginative low-budget set by Rona
Munro McNicol are further highlights
1 in director Adrian Harris‘s best g
seasonal contribution to date.
For big-scale action without the
raucousness of panto. you should check out the Citizens' revival of The lion,
.the Witch and the Wardrobe. In recent
years the Citz has tended to forget the better interests of the kids in the audience in its drive to create elegant pieces oftheatre. but here the story is strong enough and the opportunity for participation great enough to keep everyone on board ttntil the end. What is particularly gratifying is that CS. Lewis‘s magical tale works just as well if not better with Lucy and Edmond played not as squeaky-clean middle- classers. but as ordinary Glasgow school children (lively leads from Mandy Matthews and Craig Fraser). Predictably beautiful sets by Kenny Miller are graced by some very creepy underworld creatures and. without it being over-stated. the Christian symbolism is more apparent than I‘ve noticed before.
Finally a quick mention for Babes in the Drum in l)rumchapel which held a young audience fora full afternoon.
i even if it could do with some editing to
move it along faster. Here is a community pantomime that adheres to professional standards (not one line was missed) with a punchy musical score that does a line job in getting everyone involved in this panto lark.
Beauty (Hill the Beast. l’uisley Arts
('e/rtre. until Fri 3/ Dee.
Jul/y Robert am/ the l’it‘ut('.\'_/t'(mt Spare. 'I'lreutre llirrkxlmp. Edinburgh.
until Fri 24 Dee. The Lion. the Wile/1 and the ll’urtlmbe. : Citizens" 'I'ltetttt’e. (I/us‘gmr. rttlti/ Sat 22
Babes in the Drum. .vllereut 'I'lteutre.
/)t'llttt(‘/I(I])(’/. until Fri 24 l)(’('.
DEE!- AHHUS HDBBIBILIS
Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sat 8 Jan. Hold tight and let Wildcat’s laugh-a- minute revue take you back through the annus of 1993, the year Madonna revealed her new perfume: Knobsession.
Directed by David Maclennan, Annus Horribilis rattles through a dazzling array of ingenious sketches, songs and spoof news bulletins inspired by the year in which The Sun became 7p cheaper than its rival, Andrex.
There’s little that escapes Wildcat’s satirical wit. The Royals, the Tories, Lady Thatcher, Timex, the Grand National (which next year will be run by Group 4 to be sure that everyone gets away), Chick Young, Scotland Today, Taggart, Gaelic TV - all these and more are held up to merciless ridicule, especially Gaelic TV: a mass murder in a multi-storey croft brings Inspector Gorse calling.
And those with a taste for scandal ' will be delighted by ‘Allegedly’, a delicious musical roll-call of the year’s tastiest legal actions, while touching songs about the bleaker trends of 1993, such as rising homelessness, provide a poignant balance to the show’s boisterousness.
The strength of this Revue-us Hilarious lies in its top-notch script and in the ability of its four mischievous performers - singer/songwriter Michael Marra, Jennifer Black, Billy McEIhaney and
Barbara Rafferty, to do justice to their material. 365 days’ worth of wounding satire prove Wildcat’s claws are as sharp as ever. (Andrew Gilchrist)
The King’s Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sat 29 Jan.
- Having already witnessed The
, Pavilion’s game Mr McScrooge and
now the King’s usual lavish, clockwork . production, pantoland in 1993 seems
; to have two staple elements - a
sponsor (to be namechecked with
. typical panto subtlety) and the gag
where the funnyman turns to one of the theatre boxes and says ‘oh look,
the Royals! Ho, it’s The Muppets!’
What this show doesn’t have is a love
E of panto stupidity, or sufficient
invention to depart from the traditions - it’s a visually impressive, well-
drilled but clinical cabaret, lucky
enough to have an audience who would applaud the swishing of a
curtain. Cheery, infectious Hicola Park
as the refund Fairy Feet deserves a
. boisterous rep production to exploit
her natural audience rapport. Wemyss Bay 902101 presenters Grant Staff and
; Arlene Stuart deserve a rap on the i knuckles for being surplus to | 5 requirements throughout. l Christopher Biggins is ‘Dick l f Whittington’s biggest draw. The man is j 2 a classic panto dame — so why is he ._ playing sidekick and confidante Idle j 3 Jack? With his camp quotient l 3 drastically reduced and no outlandish E . wigs to hide under, his presence is flat . g and unsympathetic. This does however ! make room for Jimmy Chisholm as
i Sara The Cook, who compensates for z the overall lack of punch with a performance that suggests the King’s i has found an heir to Stanley Baxter.
; (Fiona Shepherd)
VBEVIEW , ‘ MB McSCBDDGE
f Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sat 29 .181.
5 ‘I’m away to see how many single
3 mothers I can evict before the New Year,’ sneers Ebeneezer McScrooge,
l as he exits stage left, rubbing his
, hands, arching his eyebrows and
: sweeping his imaginary villain’s cape
; behind him. Dave Anderson’s rendering f of Dickens’ crotchety skinflint is more i Hooded Claw than miserly
' misanthrope, a flamboyant baddie
; more likely to tie a damsel to the
1. track than count pennies in his ivory
j tower. Occasionally, he can’t resist being Dave Anderson on his Wildcat
[ trip (see above script reference), yet
i his child-like exuberance on
' Christmas morning after the three
l spirits have completed their mission is
pure Alistair Sim, cinema’s most
§ enduring Scrooge.
The tempation to turn ‘A Christmas Carol’ into ‘Hard Times: The Glasgow Cut’ proves impossible to avoid. Pseudo-political references pepper the script, all of them lost on the kiddie spectators. Ever heard the sound of one man clapping? It was me after George Bowie’s curfew joke, timely but pointless in the
. circumstances. Other more subtle i witticisms sink, unheard by an
audience more concerned with
catching the sweetie projectiles. The
main quibble with this production is that the general anarchy doesn’t stem from the stock panto pandemonium but from sloppy coordination and
Andy Cameron overcomes as Bob McScratchit, simply because he creates his own agenda. He’s bright and personable, he communicates his enthusiasm so consummately, and never once excludes the audience from his utterances. Alistair McDonald - in to please the pensioners and mystify the kids - is as mad and exuberant as Mr Punch in his role as bearded panto dame Ma Kelly (for the benefit of literal-minded children he explains he’s a male character Gillie Kelvin, disguised as a woman).
Happily the original storyline remains practically intact, with panto conventions (songs, comedy duos, toothsome child extras, celeb from ‘Take The High Hoad’) added to taste, in a lo-fi production which gives good cliche. (Fiona Shepherd)
52 The List 17 December l993—l3 January