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Mother Goose at the King's, Edinburgh, is crowd-pleasing fare

Does familiarity breed, if not contempt, then perhaps a sense of dÃjà vu? When it comes to the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh annual panto, which once again sees Allan Stewart, Andy Gray, and Grant Stott go through their paces, it might have occurred to you.

But there’s no denying that those involved know the ropes inside out, how to work a crowd, and send them home happy. Which, when you boil it down, is surely what popular entertainment, especially panto at this time of year, is all about?

Change is slowly but surely happening in Scottish pantoland, with new kids on the block such as Johnny McKnight getting in on the act.

Then you have the ad hoc, alternative slant offered by Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint. 3D technology, which the King’s has played host to, is also making inroads.

But both of the traditional variety-based King’s pantos in Edinburgh and Glasgow remain crowd pleasers that put plenty of bums of seats. This year, you’d have to say the Glasgow panto has the edge in terms of oomph, energy, and comic invention but, doubtless, that will simply provoke the Edinburgh crew to raise their game next year. The audience is always the winner.

Some of the gags on show here will be familiar to regulars. The old, smashed plates slapstick between Stewart’s dame, Mother Goose, and her lovestruck friend-cum-servant “Elvis” McSporran, is dusted off for instance. But there is something comforting about kicking back in your seat knowing that Gray will do his best to steal every scene, that veteran Stewart will charm the crowd, and that Stott will once again reassert his credentials as baddie whos not too bad.

So, with Mother Goose let loose about the hoose, (well Lochforest) romantic backup for the three leads comes in the shape of Hannah Robertson as Mother Goose’s daughter, Jill, and James Hume, who plays Torben, a handsome stranger from Ruritania. Both, you have to say, could fare better in the singing stakes.

That said, this is a solid, if uninspired production. A Thriller-style Bacchanalian number, after Mother Goose has succumbed to her desire to be slim and beautiful by jumping into a visually effective magic pool, is suitably scary. Mother Goose succumbs after being given an offer she can’t refuse by Stott’s Demon Vanity, resulting in the loss of golden goose Priscilla. This year’s show also features plenty of aerial work which will go down a treat with the nippers.

Elsewhere, Katy Heavens is a chirpy wee nod to modernity as a wisecracking, mobile phone toting fairy, (which I much prefer to the sanitised paragons of virtue and wisdom of my panto youth), and credit to Stewart and co-writer Paul Elliott for quickly inserting a gag about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy into proceedings.

As usual, there are plenty of local references to keep punters happy. The trams get it in the neck of course, along with Hearts drubbing of Hibs in the Scottish Cup final. (Stott, donning a blonde wig here, is a self-confessed Hibs supporter). The refurbished King’s itself also gets a mention.

While you couldn’t really say the show pulls out all the stops, it remains feel-good family fare, sure to send punters off home into the night with smiles on their faces.

Mother Goose, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh until January 20, 2013. Tel: 0131 529 6000

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