There is a decided pink glow enveloping this year’s Kings’ panto Cinderella that has been garnering a galaxy of stars in its reviews this festive season. Even at this late date in its run, the three panto stalwarts, Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott, and fellow cast members, are giving it their all.
The 12th of January saw this season’s relaxed performance of Cinderella, which is a special inclusive performance created for audiences of all ages with support needs that continues the policy of the Festival City Theatres Trust of fostering a new approach in making live performance accessible to all.
Soft lights gave a warm glow to the auditorium, adding a special magic to the old baroque boxes before each character gave a gentle pre- show introduction to ease the audience’s path to Pantoland. But even before the show began, the audience was greeted by sponsor Rowan Glen’s mascot, Bonnie the Dairy Cow, then given some wee plastic Bonnies as souvenirs and paper crowns to wear.
There may be a formula to the sumptuous spectacle that is the Kings’ panto but it’s a successful one. It’s packed full of quick fire corny local jokes and topical reference, like naming the two sisters Ruth and Nicola, played by Clare Gray and Maureen Carr, who are decked out like a pair of sweeties from a fantasy chocolate mixture. But even more up to date is the cheeky line ‘A Prince and an actress getting married? That would never happen in real life!’
Favourite elements like miming to the first lines of popular songs and using DVD titles as dialogue are all done with the trio’s consummate comic timing as is the daft song in the second half about alternative careers when Andrew Darch, who played the prince’s right -hand man, Dundini, bravely joined in. The sherracking of 2 ‘Aussie’ plants in the box was a tip of Andy Gray’s big tartan bunnet to the old Scottish variety style of audience interaction - without actual audience interaction!
Community singing seems to be on the wane in Pantos and while everyone was encouraged to have a boogie after the final bows, there was no big singalong, which is a pity but to its credit his year’s production is less overtly crude than in other years.
The opening and closing number may have more to do with tourism than Cinderella, but the Kings’ panto traditional high spot involving some vehicle flying above the stalls more than outweighed that as this year it was Cinderella’s truly amazing horse drawn coach with flurries of snow that all utterly defied belief. The glittery green pumpkin chorus that preceded the coach scene was a tap dancing joy and Gillian as a charming Cinderella caused a sea of gasps with her before- your- very- eyes magical dress change.
The Kings’ panto is traditionally a production full of live music, gorgeous glamour, naughty jokes, a dancing chorus, local kids getting a chance to dance on the big stage, all done with fun and panache and this relaxed performance had all that and more. The cast was also relaxed and there was plenty of giggling from the cast, especially when James Darch as the handsome Prince missed jumping the wall.
Douglas Robertson’ image (see above) has managed to capture the look of a Cinderella dancing doll and her Prince from many(!) years ago. Beautiful!
Since the Trust staged the first relaxed performance in Scotland in 2012 with The Snowman, other Scottish theatres have picked up on this laudable and wonderful concept that makes for greater inclusivity in theatre and in society. Here’s to this idea gaining even more strength in years ahead.