Liam Rudden: Time to get ready to join in, panto season is here again

Graham Crammond as Dame Mither Mandy Moo Moo in The Brunton's Jack and the Beanstalk
Graham Crammond as Dame Mither Mandy Moo Moo in The Brunton's Jack and the Beanstalk
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THREE Cinderellas, two Aladdins, one Jack and the Beanstalk and a Beauty and the Beast over the next 13 days... that’s my schedule so far. It’s plain to see that panto season is here again.

Here in the Capital it all kicks off today at The King’s where Allan Stewart and Grant Stott lead the cast in Beauty and the Beast, a little performed pantomime in the Capital these days, indeed the last time it was performed on the Leven Street stage was 1946.

It’ll be strange not having Andy Gray on stage driving the comedy. Get well soon Andy.

Over in Musselburgh, The Brunton got the jump on The King’s by a couple of days with their latest panto, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Always the first panto to be up and running in the area, if not the whole of Scotland, this year’s East Lothian affair boasts a new production team and the return, after a decade away, of one of The Brunton’s best-loved Dames, Graham Crammond - he’s back as Mither Mandy Moo Moo.

Both are on my ‘must see’ list and part of my annual panto tour. There’s something quite magical about pantomime. Not only is it the first experience of live theatre for many children, but it’s also the most communal theatrical experience with traditional call-outs and audience participation, much of which has been handed down from generation to generation.

It’s a format of live theatre that although it has evolved over the decades has managed to remain true to its origins... on the most part.

Each year, my panto tour takes me around the UK to see a selection of pantos. They range from the spectacular £1 million blockbusters to local productions crafted with more love and passion than budget.

Last year, the London Palladium Dick Whittington was easily the most spectacular of my travels - it will be interesting to see how they top it this year with Snow White.

That said, it does have an all-star cast Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers, Gary Wilmot, Strictly Come Dancing’s Vincent & Flavia and Dawn French, making her panto debut.

Before that however, I got a few more Scottish pantos to review.

While Edinburgh manages with a single panto, Glasgow has no fewer than three; Elaine C Smith stars at Glasgow Kings in Aladdin, Dalkeith’s Keith Jack, The Krankies and Gavin Mitchell of Still Game head up the SEC’s Cinderella, while have the cast of River City seem to be in The Pavilion’s Magical Adventures of Cinderella.

Also on my list is Falkirk’s Community Theatre where they host their first professional panto this year, and Aladdin at Arbroath’s Webster Memorial Theatre where former Musselburgh favourite Arron Usher returns as Dame, joined by Leith actor Tony McGeever, who you might know from Shetland.

I’ll be tweeting from them all so give me a follow and I’ll let you know what’s worth seeing as I go. Follow me at @LiamRudden.