Mark Fisher goes from small—scale to big-budget as he sweeps round Edinburgh’s Christmas shows.
Single parenthood is this year‘s in thing. Whether it’s Flooer Baxter in Theatre Workshop‘s Gloria Goodheart and the Glitter Grab Gang. stuck with a well-meaning but ineffectual father. or Irene in the Royal Lyceum‘s The Princess and the Goblin. living under thejurisdiction of a frosty nurse and an emotionally distant father. or the babes in the King‘s Theatre‘s Babes in the Wood. orphaned with only an evil guardian to watch over them. all the heroes come from families that are a few atoms short of nuclear. I don't want to come over all un-PC. but in dramatic terms these motherless set-ups provide
an imbalance that can only be resolved by the youngsters setting out on a big adventure. Through these adventures they learn to appreciate what they‘ve got (Gloria Gomlheart). to prepare for adulthood and independence (Princess and the Goblin) or more simply to recognise that Cannon and Ball are the star attraction so you‘re best leaving the heavy sttr ff to them (Babes in the Wood).
Gloria Gomlheart is the latest romp from Louise lronside and. like Stuart Paterson with Print'ess and the Goblin. she recognises that a spirited tale of mystery. cunning and derring-do can more profoundly encapsulate the values of goodness and truth than the cut-out pre-programming of boo-hiss panto. But she knows that this does not mean churning out worthy-but-dull morality tales that please the parents but bore the kids. In fact the opening section of
; Gloria Gtmtlheart is a wonderful
inversion in which Goodheart turns out
i to be not just good. but nauseating/y good. Played with panache by Mari
’ Binnie. she is a Violet Elizabeth Bott
for the 90s. a hilarious combination of
sruugness and sincerity ~ all false as it turns out. as the plot twists to reveal who the real goodies are.
The structure of the story isn’t in
perfect balance (it took me a while to get to grips with lronside‘s curious obsession with frogs) and the young audience sorely missed the chance of a proper clap at the end. but strong character acting. notably by Iain Agnew. and a speedy production by Adrian Harris go towards another cracking and quirky Christmas show.
There’s also something not quite right about the story in Paterson‘s reworking of George MacDonald’s Princess and the Goblin. This might seem an odd thing to say about a show in which the story is paramount and the text more dense and elaborate than anything you’ll see on a Scottish stage this season. but somehow the narrative lacks the great peaks and troughs that mark out the more familiar stage classics. Not that Hugh Hodgan’s production won’t hold you through the creepy underground escapades of Princess Irene (an endearing Pauline Lockhart) and miner's son Curdie (an equally endearing John Kazek) as they battle against closed-minded grown-ups and very unpleasant goblins. lt’sjust that until the touching ﬁnal scene. you miss the tremendous emotional pull that characterises so much of Paterson‘s work.
So to the opposite end of the scale and
a star-studded (not to mention the star studs) Babes in the Wood. And if you were worried about Cannon and Ball letting the side down. fear not! They are simply brilliant. This indeed is the bestest. lavishest. funniest. goodtirningest. mainstream panto you‘ll see in Central Scotland this year. And you really should see it. So what if John Leslie shows all the spontaneity of a brick wall? He‘s built like a brick wall and that's about as much as you need for the romantic lead. Gary Denis as the Dame makes up in dr‘oll wiseeracks what his laid-back persona lacks in pizzazz and. significantly. writer-director Chris Potter has made sure the script has a strong. credible story line. But it's Cannon and Ball who really make it. They know more
about crowd control than Scotland
Yard. infecting the theatre with so much joyous communal spirit that even when three hours have passed. the audience is still ready to go on singing beyond the final curtain.
Gloria Good/tear! and the Glitter Grab Gang. Theatre Works/top, li‘tlinlmrqh. until 24 Dee.
The Prineess and the (lob/in. Royal I._\‘eeron. Edinburgh. until 7 Jan.
Babes in the anl. K ing 's Theatre. Edinburgh, mail 28 Jan.
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, until Sat 7 Jan.
With all the ingredients of traditional panto, Brunton Theatre’s Dick Whittington has an unlikely storyline, a happy ending with multiple marriages and plenty of unenforced audience participation.
For the most part the cast has a ball and strikes up an immediate affinity with the audience (‘Shudup youse’). Paul Riley as Dick has a piercing whistle which helps control the primary school audience. Robert Paterson’s script caters for the children’s every need: teacher jokes, arithmetic riddles and competitive raspberry-blowing are all there. In return, the audience participates enthusiastically, supplying deafening shrieks or, impressively, bushing to order. As Dame Griselda, Gregor Duncan has a genuine rapport with his audience. Neither condescending nor overly enthusiastic, he shows a confident stage presence beyond his
. years. There might be the
odd lack lustre moment, the occasional inarticulated acoustic and the finale might appear anti-climactic, but Robin Peoples’s solid, stable production is likely to get slicker. The lone Tory reference implies the script might become more adult-orientated
during the holidays, but for now,
forget political satire. What you get is simple, straightforward family fun. (Gabe Stewart)
HDW WAS IT FOR YOU? Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Until 7 Jan 1995.
The very title of Wildcat’s annual revue invites a swift, one-word vernacularised response, being as it was lazy, self-congratulatory and simply not very funny.
This feeble series of sketches and songs had the political bite of a clapped out Spitting Image puppet and the professionalism of a student medic revue — sketches mysteriously petered out, leaving one waiting in vain for a punchline. Where the targets, including David Mellor and Stephen Milligan, should have been savaged, they were merely shoved around a bit before being let off the hook. That it took nine writers to cobble the script together is nothing short of miraculous. Still, at least the Keith Joseph gag was up to date, even if it wasn’t funny. The whole show emphasised that worthiness is no excuse for bad material. (Neil Cooper)
Motherwell Theatre, until Sat 7 Jan 1995.
This small-scale production thankfully places its emphasis on the power of the imagination, as Sinbad and crew embark on the sailing ship ‘Anneka’
(not much on top but wide in the berth) to the island of Kari-Tai, where the Princess Shameera’s father is held captive by the evil Kazal.
Too much reliance on radio microphones never allows for any delineation of pitch and tone. Here, it makes for an occasionally lacklustre affair that never really kicks off until midway through the first act. Christian’s bland Sinbad doesn’t help much, while the series of comic turns between Mr Abie’s Dame and his sidekick Al are too inconsistent to spark.
Natalie Robb as Shameera is in fine voice, as is Alyson Drr, whose talents are not really utilised until too late on. Up to date pop suss comes via the inevitable ‘Love Is All Around’ and ‘Saturday Night’ (complete with dance), and, as Sinbad takes flight to the strains of Elton John’s ‘Circle Of Life’, you really will believe a wooden horse can fly. Full credit too to some magical undersea puppetry. And yes, girls are better than boys. (Neil Cooper)
RED RIDING HOOD: THE SEQUEL
Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 7 Jan.
Replete with pantomime dame - the wonderful Jackie Farrell as Granny Gorgeous - cheeky children’s humour, innuendo and a sprinkling of music and dance numbers, this is a classic music hall panto.
About the only thing the Mitchell has which you won’t find at the King’s is the cast’s total access to the audience, something which might strike fear into the hearts of adults, but is loved by kids.
Directed by Andy Gray, of City limits and Naked Video fame, this show is not, as is suggested by some, aimed
primarily at an adult audience, although it does have a slightly unnerving bias towards Rangers Football Club. Sandy Morton is outstanding, almost upstaging, as the leather-clad bad guy Wolverine, but watch out for Gavin Mitchell’s superb, if shorter appearance as King Rolf in the second half.
In the grand traditions of pantomime there is little mileage in the show’s female roles, but this production glows with healthy humour which has the Auchinairn Brownies quite frighteningly ecstatic. (Mark Blown)
HEE- SLEEPING BEAUTY
You know the plot. Beautiful princess pricks finger on spinning wheel due to evil fairy. Falls into 1DD-year slumber to be magically awakened by smackeroo from handsome devil of a prince.
Mix that faint plot with the hullabaloo that the King’s is peddling this year and you have a right royal rave-up, chock-full of panto pre- requisites. You can tick each self- conscious point off on the list of Ten Good Instructions For Producing A Panto. ‘Dh no he isn’t’ banter? Check. Chorus-line dances? Check. Dodgy cabaret versions of pop songs? Check. Risque adult gags? Check. Strobe-lit audience runarounds? Check. End of night knees-up? Check.
Gerard Kelly is the star of the whole shebang as a feisty Dueen Kylie, Les Dennis revels in a conveyor belt of impersonations as Lester the Jester with admirable comedy back-up from Rab C. Nesbit and City lights stalwarts Barbara Rafferty, .lan Wilson and Jonathon Watson.
Join the sweetie-rustling, roaring, clapping, singing hordes and Come On Down to panto land! (Ann Donald) Sleeping Beauty is at The King’s Theatre, Glasgow until 4 Feb 1995.
64 The List 16 December l994—l2 January 1995