FIVE pantos, in five days, in five different towns and cities. That was the challenge I set myself the other week. Oh yes I did!
First up was the Edinburgh King’s Cinderella, where Andy Gray, Allan Stewart and Grant Stott reign supreme as the kings of panto - as I said in my review at the time.
It’s a great show this year with some astounding effects, just make sure you book before it’s too late.
The great thing about the art of panto is that no two shows are ever the same and the contrast between west coast and east coast offerings can be quite noticeable.
Second on my list therefor was Sleeping Beauty at the Glasgow Kings, where Elaine C Smith makes a triumphant homecoming as Fairy Bella Houston - although I can think of one West Coast drag queen who might not be overly impressed by the use of that particular name.
It’s all change at Glasgow King’s this year and not just because Elaine is back. Her sidekick is the brilliantly funny Johnny Mac who, after a couple of years at our own King’s Theatre a decade ago, and a few years at Glasgow’s Pavilion, looks to finally be at home alongside Elaine.
Watch out for too for Paul James Corrigan of River City fame, another man with funny bones.
Day three and Dunfermline beckoned, The Alhambra to be precise, where they have what is perhaps the most unique take on panto in the land - a Wild West version of Jack and The Beanstalk.
With Billy Mack back for a second year as Dame it’s at times a couthy affair but if you like your panto with a touch of Calamity Jane thrown in this could well be the ticket for you. Yee-haw!
Arbroath was next, where long-time Musselburgh favourite Arron Usher is making his debut as a Dame in Beauty And The Beast.
A panto that might not have the million pound budget of some other big city pantos but more than makes up for it in community spirit.
Like all the best pantos it is a truly local affair, with more than a few local kids roped in as dancers, always a wise way of ensuring bums on seats. With a waspishly funny delivery, Usher leads a talented company that work hard to ensure everyone has a great night out.
Listen out for Chris O’Mara’s cracking singing voice, despite wearing a massive beast mask.
The following day, a stop at Dundee brought me to the Gardyne Theatre where a cast of well known telly favourites are also telling the story of Sleeping Beauty.
James Mackenzie, you may know him as Raven, joins up with River City’s Big Bob, actor Tom Urie and Scot Squad stars Karen Bartke, the long suffering Officer Karen (a great wicked witch), and Darren Connell (a panto natural).
The production finds another debut Dame in Urie and very good he is too.
Indeed, chatting afterwards he suggested he and Arron Usher should team up one year as ugly sisters. It’s a good idea and one panto double-act I’d love to see.