It’s a tale as old as time.. a wealthy, unnattractive man falls in love with a reciprocating young, beautiful woman. But the moral of the story (and cynicism) aside, the King’s Theatre pantomime producer, Qdos Entertainment, has brought us another belter for Christmas 2018. The narrative is incidental in any case, because this panto is all about spectacle, comedy, audience interaction, singing and dancing – all with a tale loosely woven in. Whatever your age, this incarnation of Beauty and the Beast promises everything you could want from a panto and more.
The piece opens with flight, sparkle and glamour. Jacqueline Hughes welcomes us with beautiful, honeyed, mellifluous vocals – suitably enchanting for her role as The Enchantress. Beauty and the Beast has high production value, squeezing every bit of the King’s technical potential onto the stage. Dazzling lighting design, pyrotechnics, trap doors and wires are used to often breathtaking effect, while an impressive coup de theatre ahead of the interval well and truly breaks the fourth wall.
Longstanding collaborators Grant Stott and Allan Stewart are arguably the main event, as Flash Boaby and Mrs Potty respectively. This year sees the notable absence of Andy Gray, although the two maintain their joyous chemistry as a double act. Stott and Stewart have panto down to a fine art, managing to keep kids and adults laughing simultaneously by appealing to both adult and juvenile humour. Both are well cast, likable and skilled comedy performers, upholding all the niche Edinburgh panto traditions. Of course it’s not a highly original script; nevertheless, the annual return of songs and in-jokes at the King’s festive offering is part of the charm of a theatrical medium, which in itself is packed with familiar tropes (oh yes it is).
This is a high octane, energetic and glitzy production. Even if pantos are not usually your thing, the cleverly silly comedy and special effects make Beauty and the Beast a thoroughly entertaining night out. The elaborate costumes and sets are a sumptuous feast for the eyes and, by the end of the show, we are on our feet singing, dancing and clapping with alacrity. Edinburgh provides an array of varied, magical Christmas productions and the King’s Theatre panto is consistently one of the biggest jewels in its winter crown.