“Smells like Seton Sands” is precisely the kind of line you expect in a pantomime at The Brunton theatre in Musselburgh; it’s hooked on local rivalries, and grounds the ubiquitous fairytale of Cinderella in a somewhat Technicolor™ version of the East Lothian town. Indeed writer and director Mark Cox – best known to the wider world as tight-fisted Tam Mullen in the sitcom Still Game – shamelessly locates the whole story in a somewhat paradoxical version of Musselburgh with a Castle that’s home to Baron Dougall of Scoughall (a wide-eyed Sean Hay). Impoverished by the frenzied online shopping habits of his voracious step-daughters Dougaleena and Grizelda (a well-matched Richard Conlon and Mark McDonnell), he’s desperate to get one or both off his hands, so the arrival of Prince Jamie of Joppa (Blair Robertson), intent on finding a wife, is an ideal opportunity.

the production still delivers genuine “Wow!” moments

Almost in passing, however, the Prince – Robertson giving “JJ” just the right degree of awareness at his own designer-stubbled, gleaming-toothed fabulousness – is almost immediately smitten by a passing Cinderella (a noble and prim Kirsty Halliday). Alas, the Baron’s own daughter has become her step-sisters’ skivvy, getting her to do everything from repairing their clothes to backing up their iPads. And they ensure that she soon “loses” her invite to the Ball where the Prince will choose his bride-to-be.

You don’t expect subtle characterisation or narratives in panto; Cox’s Cinderella for the Brunton is cheeky, locally-rooted and broadly painted. A ghost-filled scene in the Sisters’ bedroom, for example, has absolutely no narrative point at all; it’s there simply to ensure some “look behind you” moments. As for the cast, they hit the right note for the most part; mind you, experienced panto-performer Derek McGhie as Cinderella’s best-friend Buttons (full name Buttons Buttons Buttons) is so up-front and in-your-face with his good-natured banter that even those sitting at the back of the auditorium probably have skin-cuts from when he shatters the fourth wall.

Talking of which, some of the sets do wobble, but that’s hardly a criticism in this situation – the show’s unpretentious vibe is definitely part of its overall charm. And importantly, the production still delivers genuine “Wow!” moments when required – not least with the transformation from pumpkin into coach which ends the first half of the show on a definite high.

The Brunton’s Cinderella isn’t subtle, but it isn’t supposed to be; this is big, boldly painted theatre for children of all ages; it doesn’t hang about and gets from initial set-up to happy ending with as many laughs, surprises and clap-alongs as possible. What else do you need at this time of year?

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn


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The Blurb

Our panto this year is full of fun and laughter with oodles of gags, local references, chart hits, outrageous costumes and lots of singing, dancing and shouting out. Our fabulous cast of professional actors are supported by a chorus of talented, local, young performers from across East Lothian.

The Brunton specialises in producing fun and interactive traditional pantomimes that are suitable for all the family, from 4 to 104!

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