King's Theatre Edinburgh (venue)
27 November 2021 (released)
03 December 2021
After a forced 1-year hiatus due to Covid, cast and crew of this year’s spectacular Christmas panto were obviously over the moon to be back again at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre – oh yes they were! Despite a somewhat emotional re-union given the fact that the late, great Andy Gray could only watch from above his pals delivered the usual mix of mayhem, songs and gags. It was indeed a night to remember and yes, it was SLEEPING BEAUTY alright but not as you know it!
Stalwart Allan Stewart is clearly delighted in transforming himself yet again as Queen May while Grant Stott has, as per usual, the most devilish dialogue and – shoosh – gets to wear the most outrageous costumes as the truly wicked Aunt Carabosse. In equally top form is ‘River City’ actor Jordan Young who joins Allan and Grant for his second panto outing. Jordan plays Muddles the Jester, a jolly lad with a big heart who is secretly in love with Queen May’s beautiful daughter Princess Aurora (Sia Dauda) though it’s quite a stretch from being a best friend to a prospective husband. Of course, the conniving Carabosse would much rather see her own daughter, Princess Narcissa (Clare Gray – daughter of Andy) as the successor to the throne and thus puts a curse on Aurora that on her 21st birthday she shall prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Can the Good Fairy (Nicola Meehan) prevent disaster? That’s the story in a nutshell but anyone who has ever had the pleasure of watching a panto at the King’s knows that even the most basic storyline is laced with countless gags, fabulously choreographed dance sequences, songs, and of course a never-ending stream of gags and humour – ranging from razor-sharp and observant to the plain silly.
It must be said that without the participation of the late Andy Gray this year’s political barbs seem a bit on the thin side but in the wider scheme of things it doesn’t really do the production any harm. Poor Muddles gets subjected to a rigorous bodybuilding regime by Queen May so he can pluck up some courage to reveal his true feelings for the lovely Aurora but instead the silly goon manages to get kidnapped by Carabosse and her henchmen from hell. Fear not, Queen May races to the rescue on Muddles’ motorbike though perhaps it would be more accurate to say she flies through the air, even turning upside down. Clearly Queen May is a trooper on the bike but she’s up against supernatural creatures and a gigantic bat (which would benefit from being better lit…). While Carabosse keeps scheming and the Good Fairy keeps singing Narcissa has a change of heart and turns out not to be as bad as her mother would have it… The stage is set for a glorious finale and showdown between good and evil though in between we are treated to the utterly hilarious “So this is the whole story” performed by Muddles - actor Jordan Young deservedly received rapturous applause for his tongue-twisting delivery at breakneck speed although it is pretty much topped by the finale song “If I were not in Pantoland” performed with gusto and side-splitting panache by Allan, Grant, Jordan and Clare. Amid the mayhem and laughter there was even a fitting tribute to the much-missed ‘King Andy’.
The performances are top-notch and Nicola Meehan and Sia Dauda in particular prove that they can certainly hold a tune! Of course, the main cast is flanked by a more than capable ensemble comprised of singers and dancers whilst musical director Andy Pickering ensures it all sounds smooth and well-oiled.
While it is fantastic to see yet another Xmas panto at the King’s this will be the last because from summer next year the King’s will shut its doors for a three-year refurbishment; consequently next year’s Xmas panto will take place at Edinburgh’s Festival Hall.
SLEEPING BEAUTY runs at the King’s Theatre until 16th January 2022 and further info or tickets can be obtained via www.capitaltheatres.com
(Photo by Graham Clark)