JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 6.12.14.
3 stars ***
AS SATIRICAL pantos for grown-ups go, this year’s Play, Pie And Pint Christmas entertainment is the show with almost everything. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s Tale about the pretentious Emperor whose nakedness is studiously ignored by everyone except a little lad in the crowd, it’s a terrific parable about group-think, status and power. And at Oran Mor, David Anderson’s new version of the story – his first panto penned without the help of his late partner in creative mischief, David MacLennan – comes wrapped in a full set of rich panto traditions, from the rude jokes to the final sing-song, and Anderson’s own superb performance as the Dame, the harassed Mum of Wee Boaby, who blows the whistle on the naked Emperor.
What The Emperor’s New Clothes lacks, though, is a script that would really tease out and hammer home the contemporary meanings of the story. After the Emperor’s promising opening song (Because I’m Posh), the satire fizzles out, and by the time we sing our cheesy closing chorus – a take on the Disney Hans Christian Andersen theme tune – it has disappeared entirely. The panto features a delicious range of performances, though, not only from Anderson but from the gorgeous Frances Thorburn as Wee Boaby, George Drennan as assorted courtiers, and Juliet Cadzow as the nude-suited Emperor, complete with strategically-placed sprig of holly. And if the substance is a little lacking, in an Oran Mor panto a good ten minutes shorter than usual, the subversive Christmas spirit remains strong, and in raucous good form.