JOYCE MCMILLAN on SLEEPING BEAUTY at Perth Concert Hall, for The Scotsman 15.12.14.
3 stars ***
IT MAY NOT be how you expect your annual panto to start – a howl of air-raid sirens, searchlights sweeping the auditorium, and a swift chorus from three female cast members dressed up like the Andrews Sisters. There’s no lack of cheeky reinvention, though, in this year’s brave, bold and super-colourful Perth panto, transferred to the Concert Hall at Horsecross while Perth Theatre undergoes a major refit. Born in 1946, as the Second World War comes to an end, our gorgeous Sleeping Beauty – in this version by Alan McHugh – celebrates her 21st birthday in 1967, creating endless opportunities for director/designer Kenny Miller to conjure up kitsch versions of Sixties fashion and design, from Princess Ailie’s baby-doll pyjama parties to a vaguely psychedelic wedding scene.
If perfection is what you’re after, then this Perth panto is not for you. McHugh’s script, in this version, plays fast and loose with the story to the extent that we’re not sure whether Ailie’s been asleep for a hundred years or five minutes, and Gayle Telfer Stevens’s golden-voiced bad fairy, Lucretia, is just too nasty to be fun. Yet there are some tremendously witty, enjoyable performances, from Louise McCarthy as a gorgeous, feisty Princess Ailie, Jo Freer as her proletarian best mate Jinty, Ian Grieve as dotty King Hector, and Barrie Hunter as an ever more confident Perth dame. There are feeble moments, and plenty of glorious bad taste; but if pure fun is your tipple, then the Perth panto offers plenty of it, along with a rousing play-list of pop standards, belted out by an eleven-strong cast, a brilliant team of six youngsters from local schools, and a stalwart two-piece live band.