Beauty and the Beast @ King's Theatre, Edinburgh
The King's latest panto is slick, glorious silliness
The King’s Theatre is bedazzled with ten tons of tinsel, but not all is as it seems in the village of Auchtereekie. Superficial prick Prince Calum (Chris Cowley) has been transformed into a hideous Beast *cue deafening thunderclap* by a magical Enchantress *more tinsel* and he must find someone who loves his personality despite his hairy face before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose. Ah – you’ve seen Beauty and the Beast before? Not like this you haven’t.
Enter Mrs Potty, played by Panto royalty Allan Stewart. Forget Disney’s sentient tea-pot, here she’s a Wonderbra of innuendo determined to help her pretty friend Belle (Gillian Parkhouse) discover the true beauty in the Beast. Geddit? But not if Flash Boaby can woo Belle first – Grant Stott’s would-be ladies’ man is the “best lookin’ radge in town” and boasts about cutting in at the chippy and chopping down the trees on Princes Street, righteously receiving a chorus of boos every time he struts on stage. When Belle’s brother, clumsy inventor Dougal, steals a flower from the royal garden, all the characters are forced to spend the night together under the castle’s spooky turrets.
The plot barely matters as this panto is madly maximalist. Barely a second passes without a dangerously large pyrotechnic explosion, a sea of dry ice or an elaborate fart joke. The musical numbers are bolstered by a polished ensemble cast and teeny, adorable dancers from the Edinburgh Dance Academy, variously dressed as jammy dodgers, packets of nuts and prancing villagers. One weak song about selfies and a Floss interlude aside, this is slick, glorious silliness.
Rapid punchlines hit almost every time for this all-ages audience, with gags tackling Love Island (“I’ve got a TEXT!!”), celeb shout-outs, tongue twisters, and the requisite shopping trolley piled high with puns. Prepare for some harrowing stripping that will haunt your eggnog dreams; someone in the row below shouts “think of the children!” Still, the balance is neatly struck between entertaining adults and young ‘uns alike. Director Ed Curtis and authors Stewart and Michael Harrison are seasoned pros at causing a ruckus from the stalls to the gods, and moments of audience participation reveal years of practice. Stott and Stewart bully the audience via a hand-held video camera, ensuring that no seat is safe from their barbs, and gently tease adorable child volunteers. Although sadly lacking Andy Gray this year (he gets a suitable shout-out on the number plate of a certain fantastical vehicle), the King’s Panto has too much of absolutely everything else. ‘Tis the season of indulgence, after all.
King's Theatre, Edinburgh, until 20 Jan; for tickets and more info, head to capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/beautyandbeast