As the year draws to a close, and I look back on the last few months of blog posts and realise I’ve spent far too little time at the theatre recently, it’s good to know that a bit of fun has been injected back into Edinburgh with the arrival of panto season.
Last week I went along to Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre to see the new Allan Stewart/Grant Stott production of Jack and the Beanstalk, this time with an added dash of Andy Gray, who returns to the city after three years in Glasgow panto.
Making a stunning entrance as Dame May McTrot, Stewart drops effortlessly back into the role of panto matriarch. It’s one he’s honed to perfection over the years, the actor a safe pair of hands in a production which tries to get bigger and flashier every year but which really just needs a bloke in a dress to work.
Andy Gray is also on fine form as King Crumble, sizing up to Stewart on more than one occasion as the pair try to outdo each other in the fluffed and forgotten lines stakes. It’s hard to know where the ad-libs and improvisation start and end, both of them falling in and out of character as they wait for their next line, but it all adds to the entertainment.
Grant Stott is also on good form as the evil Fleshcreep, doing the work of the evil giant (a semi-successful animatronic prop which dominates the stage for an over loud and overlong period of time), but it’s easy to lost track of quite why the giant is being so evil. There’s some fluff about unpaid taxes requiring the kidnap of Crumble’s daughter, Princes Apricot (Jo Freer), but none of it makes too much sense in all the rush.
Freer makes for a perky princess, most of her scenes taking place opposite romantic lead Andrew Scott-Ramsay, who does well with the pretty thankless role of Jack McTrot. Scott-Ramsay replaces Johnny Mac this year in the role of Stewart’s son, with the 2010 version a more serious portrayal. The part of the bumbling oaf is instead given to Gray, leaving Scott-Ramsay with the occasional one-liner.
References to reality TV and shiny floor shows abound, and if you don’t know your Wagner from your Gillian McKeith you’ll be slightly left in the cold. The appearance of Gray as one half of Stavros Flatley (Britain’s Got Talent) does redeem this situation somewhat, a sketch which proved to be one of the highlights of the evening.
Throw in a few song and dance routines and a bit of business with audience members, plus obligatory references to the Edinburgh trams, and this is a tremendous evening’s entertainment which won’t disappoint.
Jack and the Beanstalk runs until Sunday 23 January 2011. Visit the King’s Theatre website for more information.