Published in the Guardian
To see what's good about this show, consider the scene where the baddie recruits four soldiers, gives each a stick and puts them through their military paces. The more incompetently they deal with their weapons, the more infuriated he becomes and – cue laughter – the more faithfully they imitate his every move. There's no reason for this stock panto sketch, nor even any originality in the way they stage it, but such is the actors' rapport with the audience that it's a hoot.
Meanwhile, a couple of slipped lines – and one slipped stick – give Andy Gray an excuse to make a dig at the part-time nature of DJ Grant Stott's acting career, for Stott to counter with a quip about Gray's three-year absence from this panto ("I've been all over the world – and Glasgow") and for Allan Stewart, the most natural of dames, to keep the banter going through the crossfire.
This team's humour is built on funny voices, silly catchphrases and ridiculous pop-culture pastiches (Wagner from The X Factor; a Gillian McKeith fainting fit), and rarely so much as a double entendre. Jo Freer as a full-bodied and full-voiced princess, Moyo Akandé as a glamorous fairy and Andrew Scott-Ramsay as a handsome Jack provide great support and mean the show can't be faulted for positive energy. Their efforts, however, are badly let down by the script. It makes Jack a peripheral figure who does most of his work off stage. It casts the giant as a disembodied voice, cutting dead the momentum with every speech. And it sets up the romantic pairings at the start, denying the sense of wish fulfilment. All of this robs the story of emotional engagement, making the persuasiveness of the performances seem doubly impressive.
Until 23 January. Box office: 0131-529 6000.
© Mark Fisher 2010
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