Written by Harry Michaels and Allan Stewart
With Additional Material by Grant Stott and Jordan Young
Directed by Ed Curtis
Hiya pals, now – the first thing you might have noticed is that we seem to be in a new home.
While the Lady of Leven Street has a slumber, her younger sibling is ready to take over the reins and bravely house one of Scotland’s biggest and boldest pantomimes; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That’s right folks, Auld Reekie takes on the fairest tale of all as the prettiest Princess in the land finds themselves at the mercy of a vindictive Queen and her slave within the mirror. Full of your favourite gags and Panto pals, this production may have a new home, but reminds all that it doesn’t matter where you celebrate, so long as you share some laughs with friends, families, even a chuckle to yourself – the magic lives on.
Traversing the fairest realms of Pantoland, audiences are in safe hands once more as Nurse May takes to the
King’s Festival Theatre stage and puts in the extra leg work to stride over those additional stall seats and broader set – making Allan Stewart work even harder for that Panto pay cheque. Not only ensuring we’ve had our jabs, but Stewart’s 24th Panto appearance brings with it the usual dancing, singing, and variety performance we’ve come to love – with some additional writing credits to turn Snow White into a more local affair. And once again, joins forces with the wonderful Grant Stott and some returning King’s Panto gang members.
No stranger, Jordan Young’s presence as the de-facto third member of the Panto team without intrusion has become as welcoming a sight as one would have hoped; their energy as Muddles is enviable, and their grin stupendously infectious. And their ability to twist a situation to the daftest and more enjoyable it can be is a talent Young excels at, sharing this gift of the gab with someone whom you may be familiar.
In what is quite possibly their tightest villainous performance to date, that up-and-coming DJ and actor Grant Stott turns the man in the mirror into a new hit as Lord Lucifer, servant to the vile Queen Dragonella, with a vendetta of their own and a proper right tidy (so we’re told). And to say the boos ripple through the audience at Sttott’s performance would be quite the understatement, as Edinburgh’s favourite Panto villain makes a proud return to the stage with their usual command of the room, grasp of comedic timing and control (and lack thereof too) – Stott may now hold a record for the most sustained booing in a Panto career. Now that’s the mark of a good baddie.
As we all know, moments like this push the Pantomime into delicious levels of chaos – and Stott, along with Young, are the easiest of the cast to corpse, the audience devouring every moment of slip-ups break Stewart’s ‘thespian’ nature under the onslaught of goof-ups and ad-libbed moments. But there’s someone else onstage who just might be coming for this Dame’s crowd as the most glamourous woman in the room and spreads more fear than an under-rehearsed ad-lib.
Channelling a feisty Pat Carroll, Liz Ewing’s villainous role soaks up the boos and hisses with gusto and appreciation – unashamedly hamming up the wickedness and savouring their moments, working tremendously well with both Stott and Clare Gray’s Princess Lavinia – balancing the comedic portrayal with a more touching back and forth between family and doing the right thing. And though we know where the tale may end, there are a few twists to the narrative to keep even the most ardent fairy-tale fans on their feet. And Queen Dragonella has one smouldering trick up her lengthy sleeve. And while Gray and Stott have been playing their part of villainous ne’er-do-well lackey role, the real tooth and nails are yet to come.
Proudly making their professional stage debut, this year’s fairest of them all, Francesca Ross delivers a sincere and vocally adept Show White, though when sharing the stage with such larger-than-life character performance, does tend to wilt a little behind their presence. Ross has strikingly enjoyable duets with the very confident and charismatic Brain James Leys, who manages an additional dimension to the usual paper-thin Prince role by taking to it with a gusto of enjoyment. And sharing the title with Snow White, The King’s Panto features a strong ensemble cast under Ed Curtis’ direction and Karen Martin’s choreography – featuring the Magnificent Seven: played by Josh Bennet, Scott English, Andy Herd, Kyle Herd, Jamie John, Fergus Rattigan, and Craig Salisbury.
Visually, Ian Westbrook’s design for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs knows how to capture the illustrative charm and magic of it all – from the Queen’s castle to the Auld Reekie town, but this year a host of critters swarm the stage to lend a hand to the tight ensemble pieces which do more than Whistle While They Work.
Cards on the table. Let’s get to the nitty gritty. Make no bones about it. Let’s talk turkey: The Pantomime jokes play out as expected, dare we say recycled. But for the cynics out there, the measure of additional routines and flavour provided by Stewart, Stott, and Young is immeasurable in prolonging these gags and reinventing them in one way or another. And that’s the strength Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has over other Pantos in the land. But truth be told, this particular year has infused a few lengthier scenes than usual – which begin to eke out some of the sustained laughter the further the routine veers away from conclusion. This year seems to have a particular sting in its humour – occasionally missing the mark and straying into concerning territory, particularly throw-away gags relating to misogynistic behaviour which may downplay the severity of the matter.
What the King’s panto absolutely breathes is the tradition of this art – and yes, despite the gooey gowns and sequins, it is an art form. There’s a reason some of the finest touring companies and dance producers adore their Scottish and UK audiences: our involvement and our reception. And it all starts right here. For many, now more than ever, the Kings (via the Festival Theatre) Pantomime may well be the only theatrical experience they have in a year. Hell, maybe every few years.
And I’ll tell you what: If this kindles even one audience member’s creative spark, it’s all worth it.
Proclaiming it as the fairest Pantomime of all, Snow White and the Seve Dwarfs is one of the more elaborate and entertaining, commanding an even larger audience than its usual home can accommodate – and the magic is still here – the visage is just grander. Stewart, Stott and the gang understand the concept of variety (they’ve been doing it long enough) and this Yuletide treat, which stretches into the New Year, dishes out a festive heaping of quality entertainment and lashings of naughty variety, and continued reassuring charm.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at the Festival Theatre until January 22nd. Various times & dates are available.
Tickets for which may be obtained here.
Photo Credit – Douglas Robertson