Written and Directed by John Binnie
Musical Direction and Piano by Tommie Travers
Ahoy landlubbers, it’s time to return to the Brunton Theatre to sail the high seas (well, the Firth of the Forth) with Sinbad and crew as audiences venture from the Honest Toun to lands unknown in the pursuit of treasure. It’s all a little too quaint for Sinbad and loving stray cat Cuddles, so a trip across the globe is in store for this motley crew of professional performers, and a few local favourites.
Returning to Pantoland once more, Calum Barbour makes a perfect Sinbad and imparts a likability and dimension more than the traditional Panto hero, who usually makes room for the Dames and villains. His back and forth with the audience sets them up perfectly for the coming hours ahead, and the authentic chemistry with Eilidh Weir’s leading lady Rosie leads to some touching duets.
But you can’t go anywhere without your furry friend, can you? And making one heck of a talented pussycat, Ross Donnachie has all the tricks and physical humour down to keep the audiences laughing and singing and ready to join the crew consisting of Sinbad, a couple of stowaways, and of course, a Panto Dame.
But what a Dame folks.
She’s back, Betty Brunton; single mother, heartbreaker, icon. Graham Crammond’s performance has a firm grasp of the Pantomime expectations, ready to rile up the crowd and offer a spot of audience participation. Swiftly shifting between some of the QMU Costume Student’s goey gowns, I’m A Celeb get-ups, and Mermaid tails, swishing back and forth in a variety of creative costumes, beaming with colour, Crammond continues to be an absolute gem of an addition to any cast.
Speaking of colours – The Brunton has outdone itself with lashings of neon and cerulean marine blues with charming set dressings, all sparked to life with Craig Dixon’s lighting. It whisks audiences from the golden shores of the Toun to the briny deeps below. And the colour bleeds right into the costumes too, from the intricate to the cobbled, from pirate captains to adorable little Roc bird chicks – no doubt down to the talented hands of the Queen Margaret Costume Students who aided the show.
Revelling their villainous roles as Moneygrabba, Pirate Captain, and a peculiar Islands & Highlands Chiefton, Wendy Seager brings the usual tour-de-force of energy and commitment to terrorising the little kids, while even imparting a sweet redemptive message of charity to the crowds – something we can all get behind. Often leading troupes of dance performance, Amy Robinson’s young dancers absolutely dominate the show with talent, precision, and some choice line deliveries.
Further offsetting those villainous actions is the pleasant Isabella Jarrett – giving it their all as Nurse, who kicks off our tale after losing her baby to a mighty storm. Heartbroken, Jarrett’s Nurse dedicates her life to both finding this little one, and ensuring everyone around her has a good, and safe, time. It comes over in all of her scenes and makes for a touching reunion once that little one makes a surprise appearance – even if it is a touch messy in the scripting revelations.
Sinbad ripples with such an authentic and traditional structure for a community grassroots pantomime, that it doesn’t need to rely on the ugly sisters of the genre: pop culture. It all comes part in parcel with the Panto structure, but John Binnie’s scripting has an over-reliance on contemporary references rather than the traditional localised humour, and sadly they don’t land as form a punch as first thought. The adult jokes, though some raise a chuckle, many feel too shoe-horned to leave a lasting snickering from the audience – and more likely some wide eyes.
What does leave an impression is where Tommie Travers’ lyrics offer a sound reason for the inclusion of a few familiar TikTok sensations – changing up the songs enough to bring a context to the story. Travers’ musical direction is strong here, accompanying the cast with live instrumentals from the piano, capturing the mood of every scene – or the charming, to the dangerous, to the whimsical and magical.
The Brunton Pantomime is back and serves up a delightfully engaging local experience, with some keen performances from local dance troupes. And while running into choppy waters with the writing, springs out as an enjoyable experience for the entire family, cat included.
A Delightful Panto Experience
Sinbad: The Pantomime runs at the Brunton Theatre until December 31st.
Tickets for which may be obtained here.
Photo Credit – Robin Mitchell