Reviewed by Lorna Templeton
You don’t go to the pantomime to be challenged, but on the way home from this one, we’re wrestling with a dilemma. Just who gave the best performance in a show that bubbles with personality and pizzazz from first to last?
Amongst our carload of four, there’s a raised hand apiece for Greg McHugh (Gary the Court Jester), Doon Mackichan (Queen Lucretia), Leah MacRae (Nanny McWee) and Frances Thorburn (Snow White).
Any of them would be a worthy winner, but there has to be a decision, and just as we swing onto the drive, mum decides she’ll have the casting vote on account of having arranged the tickets. She sticks with her original choice (Mackichan) and the matter is settled.
In fairness, the Two Doors Down and Smack the Pony star is a perfectly-cast baddie, making a timeless role her own with a dollop of local flavour, vernacular and colour. She’s brilliantly self-aware, playing up and playing along to win the affections of the audience even as she plots to thwart the happy ending they came for.
It’s McHugh front and centre, though, and not just in the marketing. Having shown his versatility in the Channel 4 hit Fresh Meat and the BBC’s brilliant The A Word, the 39-year-old returns with a brilliant vengeance to his own Gary: Tank Commander creation. The gags, the gusto and the gallusness are all entirely in keeping with what a nation grew to love in Corporal Gary McLintoch and McHugh also gets the show’s defining song. Don’t blame him if you’re still boogying along to it the next day.
Chances are you’ll still have a couple of MacRae’s lines in your head as well, especially if you’re fond of a middle-age joke: these are six for a Tena. MacRae and Thorburn are also familiar faces for the audience and leave them feeling even more well-disposed with their warmth and wit. Matthew McKenna (Prince Hamish of Hyndland) is the butt of a few Glasgow in-jokes but takes it all with good grace and, of course, he’s there to save the day.
Director Jonathan Kiley, choreographer Gerry Zuccarello and their chums in music, lighting, sound and special effects have put together a big production, one that doesn’t feel at all out of place in the cavernous surrounds of the SEC Armadillo. Make sure to take a pair of 3D glasses on the way in – you’ll need them for a spectacular spin round the Forbidden Forest which was our 4 and 7 year old children’s’ absolute favourite part of the show, as evidenced by the ear-piercing screaming at the various beasties springing from the screen!
That brief interlude aside, this show is all about comfort. You know the story and the performers. You know what’s coming when and how. Yet still it hits the sweet spot, filling you with festive cheer and no little admiration. That’s a credit to the casting and the cast, who seem happy to share the glory when the audience respond with a deserved ovation. One of the best pantos we’ve seen in a very long time, this deserves to be a huge success.
Tickets cost from £18 (booking fees may apply).
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is at the SEC Armadillo in Glasgow from 14-31 December 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sec.co.uk or call the box office on 0844 395 4000.
Scottish Event Campus Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland, G3 8YW | 0844 395 4000