The Skinny Guide to Scotland's Christmas Theatre
Ain’t nothing like a dame? Or does panto make you want to cancel Christmas forever? Well, dinna fash, here’s Auntie Trash with the best panto guide she could pull together.
Ah, Christmas, the time of the year everyone from theatre gathers together and praises our real God; The Panto Jesus; employer of actors everywhere. But which panto should you see? Do you even panto, bro? The good news this Christmas season is there are options to suit everyone across Scotland's theatres. Read on and find out what those options are.
Apocalypse Now: Theatre to distract you from 2017
Did you read the news today and realise that literally everything was on fire? Are you surprised that none of our leaders seem to know what is going on? If so, then you need panto that will totally distract you from the hell that is 2017, and for that, you have two main options.
In Edinburgh, the King’s Theatre’s production of Cinderella stars that unsinkable trio of Grant Stott, Allan Stewart and Andy Gray. Dubbed 'The Fairygodmother of Pantomimes', it’s the good old story of Aschenputtel, rags to riches, pumpkins to carriages, and ugly sisters with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Well then, you shall go to the ball, baby; just put your glad rags on and head to Tollcross and forget about the world for a few hours, it’ll be grand. King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 2 Dec – 21 Jan, prices and times vary, edtheatres.com/cinderella
West of Haymarket, the Glasgow Pavilion’s panto is the excellently-titled The Wizard of Never Woz, a traditional panto that looks and sounds like The Wizard of Oz, but doesn’t share the same name, for reasons. Anyway, join Dorothy, Scatty Scarecrow, Tinny the Tin Man and Leo the Lion on this journey down the yellow brick road to a hopefully brighter future in a panto not at all affiliated with The Wizard of Oz. Oh, and it also stars comedian and professional wrestler Grado, which is a nice bonus. Glasgow Pavillion, 30 Nov – 14 Jan, prices and times vary, paviliontheatre.co.uk/shows/the-wizard-of-never-woz-3/
Staying in Glasgow for another production of Cinderella, this time at The Citz, where director Dominic Hill’s production promises slapstick, music and fun for all the family. Following much the same story that we know and love, in the run up to the ball Cinderella dreams of finding her true love, but could it be someone closer to home than she realises? Citizens Theatre, 28 Nov – 31 Dec, prices and tickets vary, citz.co.uk/whatson/info/cinderella
Camp Christmas: Johnny McKnight in Stirling and Glasgow
If you feel like having a Christmas with a wee bit of sparkle, then all you need to do is look in the mirror and utter the name 'Johnny McKnight' three times. Lo, he shall appear and make your Christmas even merrier than before by giving you the choice of not one, but two different pantos for 2017.
The first of which can be found at the Tron Theatre, where McKnight’s Alice in Weegieland is a nice wee piece of escapism. In McKnight’s version of the story, the eponymous heroine is bored. Fed up of Brexit banter, reality TV and Trump, and with a big ballet exam to contend with, she decides to follow a white rabbit into a rabbit hole. It goes a bit nuts from there, to be honest. Tron Theatre, 1 Dec – 7 Jan, prices and times vary, tron.co.uk/event/alice-in-weegie-land/
Elsewhere, in a kingdom not far away, the second of McKnight’s pantos takes place at the Macrobert in Stirling. Written, directed and starring McKnight, Chick Whittington follows the great grand-daughter to the legendary Dick (LOL) as she attempts to stop an evil queen! It’s been 50 years since the pantosphere was almost destroyed in The Great Christmas Rat Race of 1967, and now the villainous Queen Rat is back to do it all again! Can Chick save panto? Head to Stirling and find out. Macrobert Centre, 24 Nov – 31 Dec, prices and times vary, macrobertartscentre.org/event/chick-whittington/
The Biggest of Them All: Celebrities in panto
If you like your pantos to be in the biggest venues and boast stars you might have actually heard of, get yourself to Glasgow. Like its Edinburgh namesake, the King’s Theatre in Glasgow have opted for a very traditional panto in the form of Sleeping Beauty, starring Elaine C. Smith, the so-called “First Lady of Scottish Pantomime” (their quote, not ours, but we do think she's nice). Billed as 'the pantomime of your dreams', it begins on Sleeping Beauty’s 16th birthday, when she is cursed to sleep for 100 years, which doesn’t sound too bad actually. Kings Theatre Glasgow, 2 Dec – 7 Jan, prices and times vary, atgtickets.com/shows/sleeping-beauty/kings-theatre
Not to be outdone in terms of scale or guest star, the SEC’s panto – Jack and the Beanstalk, which they are claiming is “Glasgow’s Biggest Panto Adventure” – is mixing the traditional with the brand new. Although it's missing John Barrowman and The Krankies, it has something else this year: Gary Tank Commander and The Dolls. SEC Armadillo, 16 Dec – 7 Jan, prices and times vary, sec.co.uk/events/detail/jack-and-the-beanstalk
Boasting a guest star that's as impressive as its Glaswegian counterparts, His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen has Jimmy Osmond as Abanazar in their production of Aladdin, and also promises flying carpets and lots of laughs, too. His Majesty’s Theatre, 2 Dec – 8 Jan, prices and times vary, aberdeenperformingarts.com/events/aladdin-2017-panto
Definitely not Panto: Alternative Christmas Theatre
Fancy something that isn’t panto? Do you hate dames? Or are you just a bit of a Scrooge? It's ok, because theatre understands and has got you, boo. Here are some non-pantomime Christmas shows to ease you into Yuletide. At the Dundee Rep, the ensemble is tackling Neil Duffield’s stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Starring Ann Louise Ross as, it would appear, Scrooge, this production will be traditionally festive, and marvellously uplifting. Dundee Rep, 30 Nov – 31 Dec, prices and times vary, dundeerep.co.uk/event/achristmascarol
Over in the festival city, the Lyceum host the world premiere of The Arabian Nights, by Suhayla El-Bushra, and directed by Joe Douglas. Set in the bustling bazaar of Baghdad, the show features – amongst many, many other things – Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the tales of Sinbad, and a flying horse. The Lyceum say the show is “irresistible for all ages”, and who are we to doubt them? They have a flying horse! Royal Lyceum Theatre, 25 Nov – 6 Jan, prices and times vary, lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/the-arabian-nights
Just a few steps away, the Traverse’s Panto-That-Isn’t this year is Shona Reppe’s re-imagining of Cinderella, where every day is a bad hair day. Performed by acclaimed puppeteer Rick Conte, and following the galloping success of Black Beauty last year, audiences can expect secret hatches, hidden drawers and a handbag full of surprises. Traverse Theatre, 8-24 Dec, prices and times vary, traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/1266/cinderella.aspx
And if you really, really can’t stomach anything Christmas-related, wash down your troubles with Gilded Balloon’s production of A Bottle of Wine and Patsy Cline, the first Christmas production in their new Rose Theatre venue. This musical extravaganza, starring Gail Watson, features some of Cline’s biggest hits and champions her life’s work as a woman in the music industry, no tinsel guaranteed (there might be some tinsel). Rose Theatre, 30 Nov – 30 Dec, 8pm, prices vary, gildedballoon.co.uk