What to see: Edinburgh’s holiday theatre

December 28, 2013 | By More

Theatre in Edinburgh over Christmas and the New Year

 

Grant Stott's Hook in Peter Pan at the King's. Photo © Douglas Robertson

Grant Stott’s Hook in Peter Pan at the King’s. Photo © Douglas Robertson

As the days of Christmas pass, Edinburgh’s theatres provide many opportunities to follow the traditional and the familiar, says Thom Dibdin.

There are no less than three pantomimes in a variety of traditional styles, a brilliant new take on a Dickens favourite, a pair of musicals with high production values, a whirl of circus and, for the very young, a new take on an old fairytale favourite.

If you hurry, there’s time to catch the only principal boy in town, up at the Church Hill Theatre where local amateur company EPT are going down a storm with their production of The Sleeping Beauty (ends Sunday 29). The script is a shade dated but it is a show with real heart.

Out at the Brunton in Musselburgh, what must be seen as a rival production of Sleeping Beauty is a bit more traditional in its storyline (ends Jan 4). The star here is the dame, with Robert Read’s easy attitude and bright eye for his audience a real winner. It’s simple stuff with – a few fart gags aside – little smut or innuendo but plenty of local references.

The big panto is at the Edinburgh King’s where the usual trio of Andy Gray, Allan Stewart and Grant Stott are strutting their comedy stuff in Peter Pan (ends Jan 19). With a new director on board – and the hand of a new writer behind the script – this has taken a big jump up in quality from recent years. Gray is given free rein to let his comedy unfurl, Stewart’s dame and impressions shimmer and Stott is quite the fully-rounded villain.

Rattles along at speed, is packed with carols and punches well above its weight

Looking back over a packed Christmas season, it feels that the most traditional of all the  entertainments on offer is the best. This is the magnificent and pacey production of A Christmas Carol at the Royal Lyceum (ends Jan 4).  This rattles along at speed, is packed with carols and punches well above its weight with a really strong cast. Great fun for young and old.

Watching White Christmas on the TV over the festive period, I was struck by the similarities and differences with the big musical version. In fact it just made me want to go back to the Festival Theatre and see White Christmas (ends Jan 4) again.

Yes, the big stars are missing – who could replace Crosby and Kaye – and the necessities of the staging make some of the original motivations and plot development unavailable. But the additions more than make up for it, with huge tap routines and some big, big songs added.

Circle of Life - Photo of London Production © Catherine Ashmore

Circle of Life – Photo of London Production © Catherine Ashmore

Down at the Playhouse, The Lion King (ends Jan 18) provides the most spectacular of all the entertainments available. The statistics of the show are dizzying with the succession of puppets, masks and body suits creating a vast menagerie of African animals. It’s the scale of the piece which lingers, with parents getting payback for endless viewings of the cartoon on DVD and the kids leaving in awe.

Outside the regular theatres there is still loads going on, theatre-wise. Aside from the one-off events on Ne’er Day which are part of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, there are the two productions at the Spiegeltent in St Andrew Square.

With fire and swords, illusions and contortions, LIMBO (ends Jan 5) dances to many tunes in its full-on presentation of the circus arts at the sparkling Spiegel Tent There is no doubting that the LIMBO troupe is a crew of polished ability. Here are acrobats, contortionists, musicians and fire-eating sword swallowers whose tricks and acrobatic endeavours are top.

And they are made all the better for being performed in such intimate confines. On a stage which is barely two spans of a man’s reach in diameter, and within touching distance of the front row – and even the back row on one occasion – you can practically smell the effort.

There is rather less to praise in Little Red Riding Hood (ends Jan 5) the daytime show for three to seven year-olds. The basic idea is sound, but the difficulties in translating it to the circumstances of the round stage just have not been adequately surmounted. The story is nice enough, and local company Nonsense Room Productions (creators of the hit Hairy McLairy stage adaptations) do well to tell it in tricky circumstances, but you feel that more could be done.

Listings

The Brunton:
Sleeping Beauty Mon-Sat (Not Wed 1/Thurs 2), ends Jan 4.
 Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA Read Thom Dibdin’s review in The Stage: www.thestage.co.uk
Church Hill Theatre:
The Sleeping Beauty Daily, ends Sun Dec 29.
33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR Read Hugh Simpson’s Æ review here: www.alledinburghtheatre.com
Edinburgh Playhouse:
The Lion King   Tue-Sun (Mon 30, not Tue 31/Wed 1) ends Jan 18.
18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA Read Thom Dibdin’s Æ review: www.alledinburghtheatre.com
Festival Theatre:
White Christmas Mon-Sat (not Wed 1) ends Jan 4.
13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT Read Hugh Simpson’s Æ review: www.alledinburghtheatre.com
King’s Theatre:
Peter Pan Tue-Sun (Mon 30, not Wed 1) ends Jan 19.
 Leven Street EH3 9LQ Read Hugh Simpson’s Æ review: www.alledinburghtheatre.com
Paradiso Spiegeltent, St Andrew Square:
LIMBO Daily (not Wed 1), ends Jan 4.
Little Red Riding Hood Daily (not Wed 1), ends Jan 5. Read Thom Dibdin’s Æ review: www.alledinburghtheatre.com
Royal Lyceum Theatre:
A Christmas Carol Daily (not Wed 1/Tue 2), ends Jan 4.
Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AX Read Hugh Simpson’s Æ review : www.alledinburghtheatre.com

ENDS

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