The Glasgow King’s Theatre panto, which last year marked its half century, is a much-loved institution in the city. Yet it’s at real risk of being overtaken by the numerous other shows currently flourishing on and around the Clyde.
As a panto, the Glasgow King’s Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs is bright, loud and noisy, but it’s less than the sum of its parts and trying just a little too hard.
It doesn’t help that – unlike its namesake in Edinburgh – the Glasgow King’s is still bereft of a well-established, loveable cast, and the reassuring sense of continuity that comes from them being there year in, year out, regardless of the story. To put it another way, the Glasgow King’s still desperately misses Gerard Kelly, who dominated the venue for decades until his death five years ago. Of course, Kelly was that unique combination of a locally popular performer who also happened to be genuinely brilliant at what he did. He could never simply be replaced, especially in so short a time.
That said, the producers do have a potential successor in the shape of standup and local radio presenter Des Clarke. He has in spades the cheeky charm and charisma ideal for the traditional loveable sidekick – on this occasion, Snow White’s “best pal” Muddles. However, the production company now producing the Glasgow King’s Panto – Ambassador Theatre Group subsidiary First Family Entertainment – clearly don’t trust Clarke to be the star name, instead preferring to drop in performers rather than invest time and resources into establishing a new team. Last year it was Edinburgh-born Greg McHugh (aka Gary: Tank Commander); this year, a panto stage return (after his fulsome appearance in the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Yer Granny) of Rab C Nesbitt actor Gregor Fisher.
Fisher has the audience almost immediately on his side as Hector the Henchman, the not-so-evil sidekick to wicked Queen Morgiana – a delightful Juliet Cadzow who, in the best King’s tradition, plays her role as both English and posh. Yet it’s all-too-clear that Fisher’s relying on his own resources and the audiences’ general goodwill rather than finding anything particularly funny in Eric Potts’ frankly by-the-numbers script. Indeed, a few disparaging local references notwithstanding, this Snow White could arguably run almost anywhere.
Also, there are occasions when it doesn’t even make sense; we’re told that the Dwarfs are desperate to win the final of “Caledonia’s Got Talent” – itself an already past-its-sell-by-date attempt at contemporariness – in the hope of becoming rich. This, despite the fact that we’ve already seen that they work in – and own, we assume – a diamond mine! Talking of the Dwarfs, they’ve been so absent from the show’s publicity that it’s actually a genuine surprise when they get their first big (sic) entrance just before the interval.
As a panto, the Glasgow King’s Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs is bright, loud and noisy, but it’s less than the sum of its parts and trying just a little too hard. That’s a real shame; not just because of the history of the Glasgow King’s Panto, but because of the genuine talent that’s on the stage this year.