Goldilocks and the Three Bears

December 6, 2019 | By | 2 Replies More

★★★★☆ Spectacular

King’s Theatre: Sat 30 Nov 2019 – Sun 19 Jan 2020
Review by Hugh Simpson

Goldilocks And The Three Bears, this year’s King’s pantomime, is an odd creation in many ways, but it retains enough of the tried and tested formulas to convince – to say nothing of good old-fashioned variety stardust.

The headline news is of course the return of Andy Gray, reunited with long-term co-stars Allan Stewart and Grant Stott. His arrival is greeted with just the right amount of ceremony and fanfare, and the beatific smile and relish in repeating the most unprepossessing words ad nauseam are back with a vengeance, along with the beautifully timed asides.

Andy Gray (Andy McReekie) Allan Stewart (Dame May McReekie) Pic: Douglas Robertson

While it all worked perfectly well without him last year, there is no doubt that the production is greatly enhanced by someone who must be considered a true great of the pantomime scene.

Not that the other two are any slouches – Stewart’s Aunty May makes her accustomed appearance, and if there is less of the snarl the character had refreshingly developed of late, there is more than enough glee and comic knowhow to keep the show bowling merrily along.

Stott, however, seems a touch sidelined this time round. Saddled with an unfortunate ‘German’ accent, he is every inch the hissable baddie that he has perfected, but there is a certain sparkle missing from his characterisation.

topical rewriting

Stott’s big featured vocal number, a rewriting of Queen detailing Hearts and Hibs’ various managerial travails, benefits from some nicely topical rewriting but does not really convince.

Andy Gray, Grant Stott and Allan Stewart. Pic: Douglas Robertson

A comparative shortage of time in the limelight is partly down to the addition of Jordan Young to the cast. Familiar from River City (it’s not a soap opera, apparently) and pantos elsewhere, Young brings a pleasing physicality and a talent for comic patter to his role as Joey The Clown. It is no small compliment to say that he holds his head up with such seasoned and skilled performers as the central trio.

The sharing out of stage time does have the unfortunate effect of rather sidelining Gillian Parkhouse’s Goldilocks. Parkhouse is back for the third year but has far less impact this time around, reduced to a couple of underwhelming vocal numbers and a less than convincing love story with Young.

storyline

This points up the biggest flaw in this year’s show, which is the glaring lack of storyline. Even pantomimes need to have a plot, and Goldilocks is a notoriously difficult one to get right in this regard.

Allan Stewart, Gillian Parkhouse, Andy Gray and Jordan Young. Pic: Douglas Robertson

The ‘three bears’ storyline is discharged with almost indecent haste. While Clare Gray, Ross Finnie and Darren Brownlie do their best to inject life and cuddliness into the characters, it seems at times as if plugs for Stewart’s book are more numerous than mentions of Baby Bear. The love story, meanwhile, feels decidedly tacked on and tired.

Instead, we get an overarching circus- themed storyline, with Stewart and Gray’s friendlier operation under threat from Stott’s whip-wielding animal cruelty enthusiast. It is all a bit thin, and lends itself mainly to Greatest Showman references that would probably have sat more comfortably in 2018. The first half hangs together very well, but the second act is more fragmentary and in danger of fizzling out.

local references

Stewart and Alan McHugh’s script has to work overtime to overcome this, but there are plenty of local references, gags to suit kids and adults, and judiciously chosen mix of routines and songs; both of these mix the comparatively recent with the decidedly whiskery.

Allan Stewart and the ensemble in Goldilocks Pic: Douglas Robertson

Where the Big Top theme scores is in the way it can accommodate those speciality acts that used to be very much a feature of the King’s panto. The Great Juggling Alfio’s gloriously old-school skills and the motorbike stunts of the Berserk Riders are just the sort of engaging variety turns a big budget panto should have, whether it is set in a circus or not.

Audience interaction takes place, of course, there are plenty of ad-libs both real and rehearsed, and there is even a songsheet. There is an abundance of energy from the ensemble and the Edinburgh Dance Academy performers, the sets from Ian Westbrook and 3D Creations are eye-poppingly bright and an indefatigable (and loud) band propel the whole show.

spectacle

If at times the spectacle overwhelms everything else, it does always give room for the performers to do what they do best. And when you have Stewart, Gray and Stott at the helm that is saying something.

Gray’s temporary absence just reinforced how much Edinburgh would miss them if they weren’t here. So treasure them while you can.

Running time 2 hours 20 minutes including one interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven St, EH3 9LQ
Saturday 30 November 2019 – Sunday 19 January 2020
Tues-Sat: 2pm & 7pm; Sun: 1pm & 5pm
Information and tickets: Book here.

Gillian Parkhouse as Goldilocks Pic: Douglas Robertson

ENDS

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Comments (2)

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  1. Louise says:

    Please get rid of script writers, I went to see a pantomime not a musical. Too many songs, little chat, talking and banter. The whole Panto was so disappointing, the view from all 17 in the group. Alan, Andy and Grant were professional as ever and tried hard but there’s only so much you can do with a poor, unfunny script

  2. Christina Klein-Bissett says:

    This ended up being a bad musical performance, not the panto I expected. The story line was awful and the many juggling and even moterbike acts can not make up for the good old fashioned PANTO we hoped and pairs for.
    The actual real panto bits were very funny but once the curtain dropped I felt like I had seen a really really bad musical with a few funny panto bits to rescue the performance.
    I would not recommend the performance….if you want to see a musical you are better off seeing a real musical, not this ill conceived non story.

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