Brett Herriot Review

Jack and the Beanstalk, Kings Theatre, Glasgow, Review:

Jack and the Beanstalk, 

**** 4 Stars

“ everything classic panto firing on all cylinders should be !”

Qdos mark there 3rd year in charge at the King’s theatre Glasgow by bringing a pantomime to the bath street that hasn’t graced the stage in 25 years. Jack and the Beanstalk is back and following in last year’s stellar Aladdin they continue the old school charm of the big hearted, family inspired pantomimes that have called the King’s home for decades.

The classic tale of the famers boy Jack (Johnny Mac in fine form further cementing his growing legacy with the kings panto) who lives with his mother Dame Trot (Legendary Elaine C Smith proving a woman can be as good a dame as any man) in the village of Glasvegas. Times are hard and while Jack may secretly love Princess Jill (Naomi Cowe) things take a dark turn when the evil Mrs Blunderbore (Anne Smith in a fine villainous turn) doing the bidding of her Giant husband kidnaps The princess, and takes the Trots trusty cow daisy in return for beans! These beans are magical and with Mammy Nature (Angela Darcy) spreading her magic the biggest of beanstalks towers over the kings as the gang led by the King Hector (Jonathan Watson) are off on a big adventure in Cloud land.

This show is everything classic panto firing on all cylinders should be, stunning costumes, a colourful Hugh Durrant inspired set that sparkles under Alex Marshall’s excellent lighting design. Added to the mix is some very big special effects from those boys at Twins FX, it’s a winning formula.

Director and choreographer Johnny Bowles clearly knows how to bring big and classic pantomime to life and with the stellar due of Smith and Mac at the helm you cant help but be won over by its charms. Musically it’s a jukebox of hits from 70’s pop tunes to musical moments like “talk to the animals” and Elaine C Smith delivers a stunning take on “Cher” if she can just turn back time! And it is helped no end by musical Director James Dunsmore and the 5-piece King’s orchestra.

However, unlike 2017 Sleeping Beauty and 2018 Aladdin it feels like the extra magic sparkle is missing from this year’s show, its partially the decision to use Mrs Blunderbore as the villain (side stepping flesh creep) and the story line in act 2 is rushed to quick conclusion. Also, in previous years both Smith and Mac had JP Corrigan to bounce off and create real comedy magic that element isn’t there this year so all the comedy falls to Smith and Mac it feel like a slightly missed opportunity. The many and varied sketches are plentiful, and the comedy within them works well especially the adlibs both rehearsed and unrehearsed.

These minor quibbles aside this is fun family show with tradition as much as it can be at its heart with Elaine C Smith and the wonderful Johnny Mac leading its truly impossible not to enjoy yourself and roll along on the adventure.

Both Smith and Mac have been announced for next years “Cinderella” which again will allow for traditional pantomime to reign supreme at the kings. For now ever pop along and enjoy Glasgow’s biggest pantomime in every way!

Qdos Presents “Jack and the Beanstalk”, Kings Theatre, Glasgow, Runs until Sunday 5th January 2019 Tickets from £17 go to https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/jack-and-the-beanstalk/kings-theatre-glasgow

Brett Herriot Review

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Kings Theatre, Edinburgh Review:

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, 

***** 5 Stars

“the ultimate Christmas treat”

Goldilocks is the universally accepted “Circus” pantomime, its story line of the girl who finds the cottage in the woods with three chairs, three bowls of porridge and three beds isn’t a strong enough narrative to pull off a full pantomime so the action is moved to the world of the circus.

In this production Goldilocks ( the wonderfully honey voiced Gillian Parkhouse) works and lives in her mother and father’s circus. Dame May McReekie (Allan Stewart at the very top of his game, with a plethora of over the tops frocks and what remains simple the best legs in the business) and Andy McReekie The Ringmaster (Andy Gray returning in a blaze of glory to the king’s following a period of ill health, his entrance alone, think billy Flynn in Chicago, is a unique moment in itself) are in dire straits, the bills are piled high and they need a star act to bring in the crowds to save them.

Fighting against them is the evil Baron Von Vinklebottom (Grant Stott in top hat and tails with a whip being as bad as only he can be and doing it bloody well to boot) the evil baron sees no problem in using animals in his circus as well as stealing what ever acts he chooses. So, when Goldilocks comes across three bears (Clare Gray, Ross Finnie and Darren Brownlie) in the wood who can, walk, talk and entertain with comedy musical numbers McReekies circus can be saved if only they can overcome the evil Baron and his wicked plans.

No Panto is complete without a love story enter Joey the Clown (The outstanding Jordan Young making his King’s panto debut, following a decade in Aberdeen. Young is known for playing a hard-bitten gangster in BBC River City, don’t expect any sign of that here, his comedic ability and overt physical performance is awesome) he wants both Goldilocks and to be the star of the show himself. Can he get his dreams at the girl? Its fun journey finding out.

The performances are uniformly excellent but its important to understand, Goldilocks is intentionally a very different pantomime, it stretches the format into a huge hybrid. Part Panto, Part Circus, Part pure vaudeville. Its impossible to compare it with “Cinderella” or “Aladdin” as it stands alone, and this show really sets an incredibly high benchmark for its production values.

Featuring two circus speciality acts The Great Juggling Alfio and the Berserk Riders (which is a stunning and scary high-octane moment for the petrol heads) an eight strong ensemble, a troop of babes and the McReekie Circus is brought gloriously to life. Comedy is tight and clever, the sketches well judged and music at his usual excellent calibre thanks to Musical Director Andy Pickering and the King’s Theatre Orchestra.

Ian Westbrook of 3d Creations has delivered a spectacular set that’s a riot of colour and charm especially under Matt Clutterham’s stunning Lighting design which sees the ornate King’s auditorium decked out in hundreds of festoon lights. Director Ed Curtis has delivered in spectacular style alongside the trio of Stewart, Gray and Stott they have taken the panto in bold new direction and It works, truly delivering the ultimate Christmas treat.

For those who prefer a more classic pantomime fear not for next year the boys return with The Sleeping Beauty for the first time 26 years! And better still Jordan Young will be with them! But for now, grab a ticket and head to McReekies Circus for the Greatest Show on Earth.

The King’s Edinburgh and Qdos Pantomimes present “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sunday 19th January 2019. For tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/goldilocks

Mary Woodward Review

Strange Tales Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Review

Strange Tales ,Traverse Theatre, 

**** (4 stars)

This intriguing collection of stories was adapted for the stage by Pauline Lockhart and Ben Harrison from Pu Songling’s Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, translated by Ewan Macdonald. Pu Songling wrote these tales around the time of the restoration of the Stuart monarchy after the English civil war, but their messages are as relevant today as they were when they were written, and easily cross the cultural divide between east and west.

When wind and snow fill the sky and the fire has grown cold, relight the coals, warm the wine and turn up the wick of the lamp. We enter these tales in the shadows of night, but hopefully emerge into daylight…

Master-storytellers Luna Dai, Robin Khor Yong Kuan and Pauline Lockhart present a fascinating Chinese, Malaysian Chinese and Scottish blend of wit, wisdom and experience as they tell us eight tales from Pu Songling’s collection. A dead young maiden seeks to escape from the demon that is forcing her to wreak a terrible vengeance on young men; a very refined young lady receives visits from two charming and amorous strangers who are not what they seem; a young man from Paisley who wants to learn a short cut to eternal wisdom gets what he deserves, and we learn to beware of sneezing and corrupt fortune tellers.

We are warned at the start – unless we approach these tales with an open mind and a brave heart, we may be taken over by them and never break free: and should we be feeling somewhat sceptical, we are given a graphic illustration of this very fate at the end of the show…

This co-production between Grid Iron and the Traverse is a visually splendid and delightfully engaging blend of storytelling, puppetry, martial arts and physical theatre, with fascinatingly diverse costumes, haunting music, cutting-edge digital technology and subtly terrifying sound effects. I loved the kimonos, was particularly impressed by the giant red demon, and will never feel quite the same again about eyes…

Fox spirits may not be familiar us in Scotland – but there are kelpies and selkies and other creatures which interact with humans in both loving and terrible ways, while demons and ghosts are part of both eastern and western tales, though they may assume different forms. What is interesting is the very different attitude towards death and ghosts, and the belief that it is possible for the dead to interact with the living and even be brought back to life.

Strange Tales is not for the faint-hearted, or those of a nervous disposition – there’s an age guide of 14+: but if you want to shiver with fear, laugh out loud, and cheer when evil is defeated, look no further than the Traverse this December!

Strange Tales, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh run ends 21st December, for tickets go to: https://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event/strange-tales

 

 

Mary Woodward Review

Mascagni Iris: Scottish Opera in Concert City Halls, Glasgow, Review:

Mascagni Iris: Scottish Opera in Concert

***** (5 stars)

Earlier this year Scottish Opera’s conductor Stuart Stratford bounced on to the stage and enthusiastically introduced us to Mascagni’s Silvano: now, equally enthusiastically, he invited us to become acquainted with another rarely-performed work by the same composer. At Iris’ first performance in 1898 the opening choral and orchestral Hymn to the Sun was an immediate hit – and yesterday’s performance supported Stuart’s belief that it’s probably the best operatic sunrise there is, powerfully depicting the glory and life-affirming warmth of the sun.

Unlike previous concert performances by Scottish Opera Iris was not semi-staged, though the singers were in costume. Stuart explained that he and the cast had all been struck down with flu at various times in the rehearsal period – and, indeed, the original Iris had had to withdraw after that morning’s dress rehearsal, her place being taken at very short notice by a superb young Australian soprano, Kiandra Howarth, of whom we are surely going to hear much more in future.

The plot is fairly simple – Iris, a beautiful young girl, lives with and cares for her blind father. She is still of an age to play with dolls, and loves the birds and flowers in the garden that surrounds her little cottage. Her beauty attracts the attention of a young nobleman, Osaka. With the assistance of Kyoto, keeper of the local geisha house, and Dhia, one of his geishas, Iris is kidnapped and taken to the geisha house.

Osaka endeavours to seduce Iris, who simply doesn’t understand what he’s getting at. Osaka is quickly bored, and Kyoto decides to display his newest acquisition to the locals, who are astonished at her beauty. Iris’ blind father arrives and, believing his daughter to have deliberately abandoned him and chosen to enter the geisha house, curses her and spits at her. Iris, now completely bewildered and terrified, throws herself from the balcony into the open sewer below the geisha house.

Three days later, Iris’ body is discovered in the sewer by rag-pickers and scavengers, who scatter when they realise she is still alive. Delirious, she imagines she is visited by Osaka, Kyoto and her father, all of whom show no remorse as they bid her farewell. She feels the rays of the rising sun warming her, and sings the ecstatic hymn to the sun as she dies among a field of flowers which spring up around her.

It’s a shocking piece which is all too relevant today. I feel it could well be re-named Così fan tutti All men are thus – as it highlights the heartless treatment of women as sex toys, objects to be bought and sold, used, and abandoned without a thought. There is no point at which the men demonstrate any remorse for their behaviour, or the slightest understanding of their complicity in her death – Osaka says he’s going to look elsewhere now, Kyoto sees her as the victim of her own beauty, and her father berates her because now there’s no-one to see to his comfort. In the equivalent of a musical shrug all three sing Così la vita; addìo / vo [such is life; goodbye / I’m off ]…

The music is superb, with many original and unusual instrumental combinations and sonorities. I’m glad Stuart Stratford pointed out many things to listen out for – the most unusual being the leader of the orchestra’s positioning of a coffee cup on the body of his violin at the beginning of act three, producing a weird buzzing sound to lead us into the darkness of the sewer in which Iris’ broken body lies.

The singing was magnificent, with the greatest honours going to Kiandra Howarth whose radiant innocence and utter belief in the power of the sun god’s son Jor was in stark contrast to the duplicitous and self-absorbed Osaka of Ric Furman and Roland Wood’s corrupt and heartless Kyoto. Charlie Drummond’s Geisha was an aural delight, and I loved her fabulously embroidered rose-coloured kimono! James Creswell’s sonorous and powerful bass gave full weight to Iris’ blind father, while Aled Hall made the most of his few moments in the spotlight as he celebrated the moon’s light in act three. Arthur Bruce and Fraser Simpson sang their wee parts from among the chorus, who were major players in the drama, while above, around, and throughout the whole performance the brilliant Scottish Opera Orchestra created a unique and unforgettable sound world in which a heartbreaking but all too contemporary tragedy was played out.

Yet again Scottish Opera have brought a neglected masterpiece to vibrant life – we can but hope that there will be a repeat performance before too long.

Mascagni Iris: Scottish Opera in Concert, City Halls, Glasgow, RUN ENDED

Brett Herriot Review

Cinderella, The Brunton, Musselburgh, Review:

Cinderella, The Brunton, 

**** 4 Stars

“Charming and Fun Production”

2019 sees Cinderella the godmother of all pantomimes return to the Musselburgh venue. The production is sold as “Traditional Pantomime for all ages” which makes the decision to move Cinderella into a circus theme an interesting one.

Writer and director John Binnie return’s after his excellent debut in last year’s Jack and the Beanstalk and delivers a production which has charm in abundance and works well within the physical constraints of the theatre. It also puts the local community and locations at its very heart.

The difficulty is, Cinderella is the godmother of pantos because its every little girl’s dream, a tale of once upon a time in a magical village when a gorgeous prince, a gold ticket, a fairy godmother makes defeating the wicked stepmother and ugly sisters a possibility! That childlike wonder and charm doesn’t transposition well to a circus theme. However, it remains nevertheless utterly charming and fun to watch.

Cinderella played with innocence and a light-hearted touch by Eilidh Weir spends her days sweeping the big top floors of the circus owned by her evil stepmother and ringmaster (the wonderfully bad Wendy Seager), who favours the ugly sister duo of Mince and Tatties (played brilliantly by Graham Crammond and Andrew Dyer respectively) as they plan to sell the circus and reap the money. Its circus clown Buttons (the always fun and charming Ross Donnachie) who shows cinders any love, but as he stumbles upon Prince Charlie ( the utterly gorgeous Lewis Lauder) and in what is normally a Prince and Dandini moment they swap places, allowing the rest of the story to unfold in traditional ciders style albeit in its new location. It even allows Estrid Barton’s Fairy Godmother to sprinkle a little magic especially in the inventive transformation scene.

This Cinderella is real family affair and its boosted by Musical Director Tommie Travers excellent musical choices, with pop songs sitting comfortably alongside the ballads. Its Travers delicate underscoring that adds something special and that would be further enhanced with a full live band, however Travers delivers well at the keyboard in the pit.

Robin Mitchell’s Set and Costume Design is spot on the money bringing to life the circus theme in a riot of colours and the costumes, of which there are many, bringing real character. This is further boosted by Ian Curtis and Craig Dixons first rate lighting design which adds even more colour and depth to the production.

Overall this is a charming and fun production but the change of location doesn’t work fully for it, as there are no circus speciality acts, jugglers or acrobats and it relies on character driven story to carry the show through, which would have been better delivered in a traditional telling of the story.

For all that, you can’t help but be won over by this production which will pack them in at the big top of the Brunton theatre.

The Brunton Theatre Presents “Jack and the Beanstalk”, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Run’s until Saturday 4th January 2020 Tickets from £14 go to www.thebrunton.co.uk/events

Brett Herriot Review

Beauty and the Beast, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Review

Beauty and the Beast, 

**** 4 Stars

A Charming Tale as old as Time!”

The Theatre Royal’s dream team of Danny Adams, Clive Webb and Chris Hayward mark their 13th year of creating magic in Newcastle’s biggest pantomime by returning to the traditional pantomime of Beauty and the Beast following last year’s circus inspired stunt bonanza that was Goldilocks.

Based on the classic tale as revived by Disney, the Story of the Beast (Chris Cowley) condemned to be forever the beast unless he can fine love and make a girl see the man with in the beast is a romantic love story at its heart that’s a charming tale as old as time and excellent for family pantomime fun.

Add to the Mix Clive and Danny’s regular routine of zany slapstick routines and Chris Hayward stunning Dame Rita Potty and the fusion of Classic pantomime with Newcastle’s regular trio works its charms. Steve Arnott the regular baddie gets to play a goodie this year as Dashing Dick the Candlestick playing opposite Reece Sibbald’s Mr Tock the talking clock. Baddies duties fall to Wayne Smith and his take on Flash Harry. Performances are universally excellent as always with the cast clearly enjoying themselves and that flows across the footlights.

Producer and Director Michael Harrison has delivered a true return to traditional family pantomime with scale that can only be delivered by QDOS, a stunning set from Ian Westbrook sparkles under the rich lighting of Ben Cracknell’s design.

The panto is written by Michael Harrison and Alan McHugh and for the most part works wonderfully well however the routine of using countries names and flags for a rhyming comedy number doesn’t work, its over long and falls flat and just isn’t landing despite the game attempt by Danny Adams it’s a comedy routine that could easily be cut from the show and making the overall product tighter.

That being said the “Trunk of Truth” routine is comedy gold and done with such force that the entire house was drowning in laughter. The same applied to the song sheet “Gilly Gilly” which has a stunning and surprising conclusion that makes the audience gasp.

All the regular ingredients come together to make the magic that is the Newcastle Theatre Royal pantomime the very best in the North East. It remains the testing ground for Qdos with many ideas and effects turning up in Harrison’s London Pallidum production.

The highlight of this years show has to be Chris Hayward’s Dame Rita Potty who arrives on stage in a succession of knock out costumes which he designs himself it brings all the glitz and the glamour that is both traditional and modern pantomime in all its glory.

Beauty and the Beast at the Newcastle Theatre Royal delivers in spades and will continue to push the boundaries of the possibilities and with next year’s panto already announced, a return of Humpty Dumpty a title not see for many a long year things continue to look good for biggest and best panto in all the land.

Qdos presents Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Theatre Royal Newcastle, Runs until Sunday 19th January 2020 for tickets go to: www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on/panto-beauty-and-the-beast

Preview

Christmas UK top 5 Preview: 2019

Christmas UK top 5 Preview:

We have previewed the very best of Pantomime and Christmas Shows from around Scotland but following the popularity of last year’s top 5 outside of Scotland, we just had to bring it back for 2019! There are over 500 professional pantomimes and Christmas shows around the UK and many hundreds more in church halls and community theatres the length and breath of the country. We have selected just 5 Pantomimes from out with Scotland that we believe are unique, special and worthy of your ticket money! You may or may not agree but we hope you visit your nearest theatre this festive season for a real treat.

Qdos presents Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The London Palladium.

London Palladium

The London Palladium holds a very special place in the hearts of Londoners and theatre goers throughout the UK and thanks to QDOS they brought pantomime back to this historic venue in 2016 and have become Olivier award winners along they way. The Gang are back and will transform the Palladium into a circus for a panto spectacular like no other. Paul O’Grady returns along side Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot plus a new galaxy of stars.

Fusing together circus, stunts, spectacular effects, a brand new set, costumes worthy of the west end and the biggest orchestra in panto the palladium is out to top its itself once more, you would be fool to miss this and it only plays for 5 short weeks and many performances are already sold out! Time to book now before it’s all too late.

Qdos presents Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The London Palladium. Sat 7th Dec – Sun 12th Jan 2020 for tickets go to: https://www.palladiumpantomime.com/

Qdos Presents Beauty and the Beast, Theatre Royal, Newcastle.

Newcastle

The biggest panto in the North must be the annual extravaganza at the Theatre Royal directed by Michael Harrison ( who also helms the London Palladium) and always acts as a test bed for ideas and effects that will pop around the country in subsequent years. 2019 For the first time ever the spellbinding pantomime Beauty and the Beast comes to the Newcastle Theatre Royal in a spectacular and enchanting production for all the family, starring legendary Theatre Royal panto stars Danny Adams, Clive Webb and Chris Hayward. Join them on a magical adventure to help the beautiful Belle on her quest to unleash the Beauty within the Beast. With everything you’ve come to expect from the Theatre Royal’s pantomime; spectacular special effects, hilarious comedy and a few surprises along the way, Beauty and the Beast is set to be the North East’s biggest panto ever!

Qdos Presents Beauty and the Beast, Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Tue 26th Nov – Sun 19th Jan 2020 for tickets go to https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on/panto-beauty-and-the-beast

The York Theatre Royal Presents, The Sleeping Beauty, Theatre Royal York.

york

For the first in 40 years, Berwick Kaler will not be on stage at the Theatre Royal York but he is behind the pen of this brand new production. Introducing Martin Barrass as the Queen, alongside Suzy Cooper as Beauty, A.J Powell and the dastardly David Leonard as the wicked Evil Diva. Spinning together hilarious gags, stunning costumes, thrilling dances and foot-tapping songs – you’ll cheer the heroine, boo the villain, laugh-out loud and sing-along! It may just be the start of a new era at the Theatre Royal York so why not catch it.

The York Theatre Royal Presents, The Sleeping Beauty, Theatre Royal York. Sat 7th Dec – Sat 25th Jan 2020 for tickets go to: https://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/show/sleeping-beauty/

City Variety Theatres Present Red Riding Hood the Rock and Roll Pantomime, City Varieties Music Hall Leeds.

leeds

To Yorkshire next and the run away success that is the Rock and Roll Pantomime at the City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds. From the enchanted pen of Peter Rowe, CVT present RED RIDING HOOD!

You’ll be wowed by this breath-taking production which mixes traditional elements of audience participation and corny gags with a jukebox full of classic rock anthems and chart-toppers, all performed live on stage by our ultra-talented cast of actor-musicians. Be sure to keep your wits about you though, or you may just get rocked by the legendary Boulder Battle !

City Variety Theatres Present Red Riding Hood the Rock and Roll Pantomime, City Varieties Music Hall Leeds Fri 29th Nov – Sun 12th Jan 2020 for tickets go to: https://www.cityvarieties.co.uk/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=7F9A3ECA-C417-43BE-BAFD-458AF6459B75

Qdos Presents Beauty and the Beast, Grand Opera House, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

belfast

May McFettridge celebrates her 30th season as the Queen of Belfast Pantomime and is joined by star of stage and screen Ben Richards (Footballers Wives, Holby City, Hollyoaks, The Bodyguard in London’s West-End) as well as Comedy magician and Britain’s Got Talent favourite Mandy Muden. Don’t miss this magical adventure packed full of comedy, colour and amazing song and dance routines.

Dreaming of a happier life, the beautiful Belle finds herself transported to a cursed castle and held captive by a hideous beast. To her surprise, the castle is full of magical characters placed under a spell by an evil enchantress. Can Belle see beyond the monster and fall in love with her captor before the last petal falls from the enchanted rose? Or will the Beast’s selfishness cost him the world he once knew and the hand of the girl who has melted his heart?

With a huge cast of 30 and a spectacular set, Beauty and the Beast is the biggest show in Northern Ireland. It’s also a sumptuous gift of a show tied up in glittering ribbons, so treat yourself and your family to a Christmas present you can look forward to all year!

Qdos Presents Jack and the Beanstalk, Grand Opera House, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Sat 30th Nov – Sun 12th Jan 2020. For tickets go to: https://www.goh.co.uk/whats-on/beauty-and-the-beast/

So there it is our 5 picks of the panto’s out with Scotland and for those in wales there is many a panto too including Sleeping Beauty at the Venue Cymru Llandudno featuring legendry Dame Nigel Ellacott you can find more info by going to: https://venuecymru.co.uk/sleeping-beauty-0

Whatever panto you see this year have a ball its truly the most unique form of entertainment and one we should continue to embrace.