Pantomime, as we’re reminded by
the Ambassador Theatre Group’s pre-show video (narrated by Brian Blessed), is a
peculiarly British theatrical tradition, although it’s a shame that this
somewhat generic introduction (unchanged since last year, and presumably shown
across the UK) doesn’t recognise the particular Glaswegian accents of the
long-established King’s Theatre pantomime. Or, indeed, what is surely the
single-most important tradition for any panto—the fact that, for cast and
family audiences alike, it is a personal
The result is a genuinely heart-warming entertaining evening that you won’t find anywhere else
The shadow of the late, great Gerard Kelly—who headlined pantomimes at the Glasgow King’s for two decades—is slowly fading, as it must, with new traditions beginning to form. One obvious example of this is that Glasgow-born stand-up comedian and radio presenter Des Clarke—here in his fifth consecutive King’s Panto, once again playing Buttons—can now get genuine laughs simply from making overt references to previous shows, knowing that most of his audience will understand. Meantime, for a second year the show’s nominal headline act is Gregor Fisher, on this occasion teamed up with long-standing Rab C Nesbitt co-star Tony Roper as Cinderella’s “ugly sisters”, Euphemia and Lavinia.
However, anyone thinking that this is the Gregor and Tony show is mistaken; while the audience laps up the pair (especially when they—inevitably—at one point slip into their Rab C personas), this new production of Cinderella is a surprisingly strong ensemble piece, with writer Eric Potts and director Morag Fullarton between them ensuring that the all-too-familiar story actually has some real dramatic cohesion and genuine characterisation. Gary Lamont, for example, has something to work with as Prince Charming’s slightly camp, list-ticking servant Dandini, a character that in other versions is often as thin as cardboard.
Ian West’s choreography is of course full-on exuberance, but it isn’t just there for the sake of multi-coloured spectacle—the first meeting between Cinderella (a warm-voiced performance from Gilian Ford) and Prince Charming (Josh Tevendale) is the inevitable result of the choreography; it’s then up to the actors to utterly convince us about the reality of love at first sight, which (for once) they successfully do. Indeed, Gregor and Tony are used relatively sparingly—perhaps because of the time it takes them to get in and out of their increasingly OTT costumes—but while they clearly have the audience’s “warm” hostility whenever on stage, the show doesn’t “drop” in energy when they’re not.
What helps the most, however, is that this production of Cinderella—unlike last year’s Snow White—doesn’t just feel like a generic show into which a few “local” references have been dropped in; this is a return, of sorts, to a genuinely Glaswegian panto not afraid to reference people and institutions close to home. The result is a genuinely heart-warming entertaining evening that you won’t find anywhere else—and that, surely, is the point. See you next year.