It's probably too early to be talking panto already. Oh no it isn't! The nights are drawing in, and theatre's starry spangled season of loud-coloured sets, men in dresses, leggy boys, raucous bouts of audience participation and, likely, lashings of innuendo to keep the older folk in the audience involved in the proceedings is on its way.
As always, christmas shows in Edinburgh's theatres draw from time-honoured classics. There's a few variations on the traditional theme of the Victorian pantomime, but at heart it's all family fun and winter cheer.
If there's a theme to this year's pantos it's a swashbuckling one. In the Royal Lyceum's Peter Pan, the wicked Captain Hook and his pirate crew do battle with the boy who can fly and friends.
There's more pirates and sword fights at the King's Theatre as Allan Stewart pulls up his skirts as Mrs. Crusoe and crosses cutlasses with Grant Stott's evil Pirate in Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates.
The Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh also has a nautical theme with Liam Rudden's localised Sinbad The Pantomime Featuring The Little Mermaid.
Meanwhile, at The Traverse Theatre – what's this? A myserious man in cape and mask scratching ‘Z’s in the snow? Yes, it's Zorro, transposed from Mexico to Edinburgh. Not the most obvious character for a christmas show perhaps, but certainly a more swashbuckling one you'd be hard pressed to find.
For those who want to forego the mega decibel levels of hundreds of screaming children perhaps the most grown-up show in Edinburgh this christmas season is The Corstorphine Road Nativity at the Festival Theatre.
The Festival Theatre’s first home grown in-house production is a comedy by Calendar Girls writer Tim Firth. It's set in the fictional but recognisable Corstorphine Road Primary School in Edinburgh where all the parts in the annual school nativity play are performed by adults. We see the dramas and mishaps that happen as they prepare for the big night.
If this is all too christmasy for you, then Ben Elton and Queen's futuristic story We Will Rock You is at The Playhouse over the festive period. The touring production features over 24 of Queen's songs.
Over the 4-day Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival, there's also the specially commissioned tartan-tastic dance show Off-Kilter at the Festival Theatre, which showcases a fusion of global dance styles put to scottish music.
Panto reviews will be posted on EdinburghGuide.com as the shows open. For now here's a few more details.
CHRISTMAS SHOWS INFO
The King's Theatre
Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates.
28 November - 17 January
Familiar panto ingredients of sword fights, slapstick comedy, a shipwreck, and a sea monster are assured in this family show. King’s panto stalwart Allan Stewart returns to the theatre this year as Mrs. Crusoe, while radio and television presenter Grant Stott plays the evil Pirate.
Johnny Mac leads the adventure as Robinson Crusoe along with Scottish regular Jo Freer as the Mermaid and the Charlie Cairoli as The Captain, who is back in the Edinburgh panto for the first time in six years. King’s new-comer – discovered through a long audition process - Moyo Omoniyi plays Girl Friday.
The Royal Lyceum Theatre
27 November - 3 January
Peter, Wendy, John and Michael (not to mention Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys) do battle with the wicked Captain Hook and his pirate crew. It’s a world where crocodiles go tick-tock, fairies are real and children can fly – a place where dreams really come true. Directed by Jemima Levick who brought Lyceum audiences Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 2005.
The cast includes Scott Fletcher as Peter, Kim Gerrard as Wendy and Stuart Bowman as Captain Hook. For ages 6 and up.
The Traverse Theatre
5 – 24 December
A co-production from Visible Fictions and the Traverse Theatre, this family show follows the famous masked champion as he ricochets from one sticky situation to another in a world where adventure is the name and justice is the game! Watch out for ‘Z’s scratched into the snow this Christmas, it might mark the start of a thrilling escapade...
The Festival Theatre
The Corstorphine Road Nativity
3 – 19 December
Initially entitled The Flint Street Nativity, the show was created in 1999 for television and produced with a star cast including Frank Skinner, Dervla Kirwan, Neil Morrissey and Jane Horrocks. The Corstorphine Road Nativity builds on that story.
Here the cast includes Shabana Bakhsh (Waterloo Road), Jimmy Chisholm (Take The High Road), Sara Crowe (Four Weddings & A Funeral), Ryan Fletcher (River City), Gordon Kennedy (Robin Hood), Jane McCarry (Still Game), Steven McNicoll (Legit), Colin McCredie (Taggart), Julie Wilson Nimmo (Balamory) and Gail Watson (Sunshine On Leith).
The nativity preparations are underway and backstage nerves take hold as the trembling narrator tries to learn his lines and the wise man struggles to overcome his lisp and pronounce the word Frankincense.
Playground politics come into force as the school bully attempts to steal the role of Mary from the teacher’s pet and a deadly innkeeper refuses to let anyone in – apart from Mary herself of course. And with fluffed entrances, forgotten lines, brazen upstaging and distractions of excited parent-spotting, the nativity performance itself soon descends into a chaotic but comical charade.
The production will be directed by Joanna Read, former artistic director of Salisbury Playhouse, with set and costume designs by Nancy Surman.
Sinbad the pantomime featuring The Little Mermaid
20 November to 2 January
In this Scotified version of the classic, deep beneath the Bass Rock lies the secret undersea paradise Atlantis - home to the Little Mermaid and the Pearl of Beauty, a jewel with magical properties.
When Crabsclaw, the evil witch attacks the peace-loving Merfolk of Atlantis in search of the Pearl, the Little Mermaid is forced to swim ashore for help. Washed up on Fisherrow Beach she is discovered by Sinbad the Sailor, who lives on a ship in Fisherow Harbour with his mammy Saucy Nancy and daft brother Swishee. Together they set off on a quest to find the great Neptune, Lord of the Seas and the only being powerful enough to defeat the Sea Witch.
Classic family pantomime with comedy, special effects, songs and audience participation.
Queen & Ben Elton's We Will Rock You
4 November – 9 January
24 Queen songs in a futuristic story of kids battling the monolithic corporations who want to control them and their love of music.
29 December - 2 January
A show incorporating the array of dance styles being practiced in Scotland today. Top choreographers put the moves to Scottish music.
Edinburgh Peoples Theatre perform The Fantastic Adventures of Ali Baba
9th - 20th December 2009
"Sunny Baghdad is the ideal family resort, particularly for those in search of hilarious adventure." So says the press release for the Edinburgh Peoples Theatre annual panto, a family show with festive ingredients including treasure hunts, snake pie and hot and cold running sand.