After 72 years, Beauty and the Beast Christmas panto finally returns to King’s Theatre. Directed by Ed Curtis and produced by Qdos Entertainment, this show certainly lives up to its reputation as Scotland’s No.1 pantomime. Even on an average Wednesday night, the seats were filled with laughter, joy, and enthusiasm, as Mrs. Potty. (Allan Stewart) and Flash Boaby (Grant Scott) whisked us away to ‘panto-land’.
As the curtains lifted, I was immediately taken aback by the extravagant and magical set design. There was a thin veil of subtly-sparking curtains, revealing the well-known prologue where the Enchantress (Jacqueline Hughes) places a curse on the conceited Prince Calum (Chris Cowley). Setting up the premise in less than a few minutes, we were suddenly taken to the village of Auchtereekie, lighting and set changing upon meeting Mrs. Potty and the beautiful Belle (Gillian Parkhouse).
This panto was impressive in its presentation of a ‘tale as old as time’, through a modern twist. With lots of pop culture and Edinburgh references, their musical numbers incorporated The Greatest Showman’s ‘This is Me’ and ‘Come Alive’, changing lyrics to ‘welcome to panto-land!’ which successfully establishes their genre as new, unique, and personal.
“Hello, Mrs. Potty!” yelled the audience. Allan Stewart was phenomenal in his interactions with them, through small fragments of slapstick comedy interspersed with moments of plot narration. His character, the servant of Prince Calum (Beast), was well created and placed nicely into the plot for endless laughter and euphoria.
Grant Scott was also fantastic as Flash Boaby (traditionally known as ‘Gaston’). A little leitmotif played by the King’s Theatre Orchestra cleverly announces his arrival in each scene, encouraging audiences to ‘boo’ at the character. His traditional interactions with the audience involved a comedic satirical presentation of misogynistic behaviours.
The rest of the panto continued with moments of sincere interactions between the Beast and the Enchantress contrasted with humourous interactions between Mrs. Potty and Flash Boaby, and sometimes with Belle. Through it all, mistakes were not taken seriously. That was refreshing to see and in fact added more unpredicted joy in the experience. There were lots of great comedic moments (which I won’t spoil!) in between the shorter, but nonetheless important plot scenes, a unique characteristic of pantomimes that only such a fantastic cast is able to accomplish.
The set design and production was of high quality and perfectly complemented the scenes. They were used creatively to create the magical, spellbinding aspect of Beauty and the Beast, one of the key moments being the ‘floating’ car above audience members in the stalls. They also complemented pop culture references, such as the slow dancing scene to Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud, with beautiful lighting, backdrop, and smoky effects.
From the moment the curtains lifted through to the final bows, this was a highly recommended, immersive and unique theatre experience. It intersperses and pushes the boundaries between personal and formal addresses with the audience, improvisational and scripted comedy, and plot and slapstick humour.
PHOTOS: Douglas Robertson