BWW Review: SLEEPING BEAUTY, King's Theatre, Glasgow
There are changes afoot at this King's panto this year. Widely regarded as the 'traditional' pantomime in Glasgow, it has been running for over fifty years at the theatre. At the end of 2016, it was announced that Sleeping Beauty would not be produced in-house as normal but that Qdos Pantomime were taking over. Responsible for huge production pantomimes and big-name castings all over the country, maybe it was time to mix things up a bit at the Kings? Well..not exactly.
While the show is presented as Sleeping Beauty featuring Elaine C Smith, really it's The Elaine C Smith Show featuring a hint of a storyline. The audience are delighted to have Smith back at the Kings but it seems as if the producers didn't feel the need to try after securing her casting. In fact, the posters in the foyer are already up advertising next years big budget Qdos extravaganza- using the same photoshoot as this year's posters. The comedy characters are always the main focus of a panto but this production sacrificed any kind of narrative in order to keep Smith centre stage. At times I had no idea what fairytale it was that I was supposed to be watching.
A little bit of background information about the King's panto. For years Elaine C Smith and Gerard Kelly reigned supreme and their double act was something very special. Gerard Kelly passed away suddenly in 2010 and although when Gavin Mitchell stepped in to replace him he gave a nod to his catchphrase- it hasn't been repeated in one of the shows since. It felt particularly distasteful to have newcomer to the Kings Johnny Mac bounding onstage shouting "hiya pals" as that line very much belonged to Kelly. Mac and Smith were presented as a double act but they had none of the chemistry.
Qdos have been producing the other big Glasgow pantomime at the Clyde Auditorium for years and I was disappointed to see scenes lifted directly from it. It isn't unlikely that Glaswegians will go to different venues for panto and to use the exact same scenes and 'original' songs is lazy and unacceptable for the prices being charged.
Any attempt at a decent script has been sacrificed in favour of spectacle. While the Act One finale is undeniably impressive it isn't particularly relevant and is done purely for the purpose of showing off. The 'cloot' is a longstanding tradition, a cloth that is lowered down with the lyrics written on it and a staple in the Kings panto. With this brand new production they've replaced the cloot with a projector screen.
Lighthearted banter with the audience descended into humiliation and ridicule. Audience members were picked on for far too long when they were uncomfortable and there was a particular inappropriate joke about sexual harassment. Additionally, there was a scene where Muddles was describing a date he had by using DVD covers and the end of the night included Free Willy, The Fast and the Furious and Gone in Sixty Seconds. The whole piece was wildly inappropriate and another reference was made to sex on the first date. Some other shows have a cheeky comment or two that are cleverly designed to go over children's heads but these remarks were blatant, crude and not remotely funny.
This production of Sleeping Beauty was a huge let-down as it felt very mass produced. I'm not opposed to change but this year The King's panto has lost its heart.
Sleeping Beauty runs at the King's Theatre, Glasgow until Sunday 7th January.