For me, like many of you, Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Panto. Mince pies, mulled wine and new trendy versions of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer are all very well but until the curtain goes up on a stage of full cross-dressing adults and larger than life villains that I am at liberty to BOOOO, it just isn’t Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love a Christmas Show but it has to be in addition to my Panto fix and never ever instead of. I want traditional, take-me-back-to-my-seventies-childhood levels of nonsense, innuendo that cruises above the heads of boys and girls but has mums, dads and grannies crying with laughter, a big finale sing-along and characters that either brimming with goodness or drowning in evil.
Therefore, it brings me the very greatest of pleasure to report back to you on this year’s splendid, fun-filled offering from Horsecross; Beauty and The Beast.
Staged at Perth Concert Hall, the team have gone all out to capture a traditional theatre feel with a set that includes a mock Victorian arch, stunning costumes (including an array of garish, fantoosh frocks for the Dame), beautifully simple and well-crafted scenery and a high tech screen for viewing cackling villains, rose petals falling and unsuspecting audience members!
Directed by panto stalwart Ian Grieve - this is his tenth offering from the director’s chair – it has all the glorious banter you’d expect from a man who has spent thirty years in Scottish theatre. Throw in a flawless cast that includes the amazing Barry Hunter as The Dame, AmyBeth LittleJohn as Belle and Martin McCormick as the Beast and you know you’re going to be in for a treat.
Of course, a great Panto requires a villain of such evil proportions as to rouse an audience into roof-raising BOOs and Amanda Beveridge as Deadly Nightcap.. sorry Nightshade, does this with effortless menace and solid assistance from David Rankine as the narcissistic sleazeball, Blair Atholl.
Tom McGovern was so convincing as Angus McFungus I didn’t know it was him until the spell was broken and Angela Darcy’s Poison Ivy, ugly sister of uglier Nightshade, is comic genius. However, it was Harry Ward that had my Mum in stitches with his wind-breaking turn as the lovelorn Boabby Blumenthal.
And while we’re at it, a huge cheer must go out to the talented ensemble and fantastic children who brought an additional layer of energy and humour to the dance numbers and songs. Never have I seen an entire Panto cast break out guitars, ukuleles and fiddles for a bit of a jam and hoolie!
Set in modern day Auchterdriech, Ian has cleverly brought traditional Panto into the 21st century with a modern day Belle and Boabby heading off to Stanley Bay for a spot of surfing in the opening scenes (Surfing Stanley Bay to the tune of The Beach Boys Surfing USA has been in my head for two days now!). Chatting to Ian pre-show he promised me Once Upon A Time meets Geordie Shores, and I can confirm Blair Atholl is instantly recognisable as many a ghastly character from today’s reality TV shows!
The magic of Panto is there in every cleverly crafted line and although you know you’re in for a happy ending, you are rooting for everyone to overthrow the ghastly Nightshade from the first shuffle and roar of The Beast across the stage. For me, that’s where the magic lies. I want to be sucked into the whole glorious mess, to laugh uproariously at the toilet humour, boo with conviction at the baddies and feel genuinely uplifted as Belle meets her Prince and Angus McFungus turns into a toyboy worthy of Barry Hunter’s Dame! This amazing cast delivered all that and a whole punnet of popcorn on top.
Without ruining the laughs and surprises along the way, it is impossible to tell you just how brilliantly this wonderfully team have pulled off bringing the magic of Panto to a 2015 audience. All I can do is urge you to book a ticket, get your lungs cleared and loudest voices ready for a traditional night of booing, singing and shouting with this stage full of HUGE personalities.
Check out our Panto Gallery and Interview with Ian Grieve here >>>
Book Tickets for Beauty And The Beast over on Horsecross here.
Beauty And The Beast runs until Saturday 26th December.
Platform Festival returns for its second year with exhibitions and events throughout Perthshire.