Edinburgh Pantomimes and Christmas Shows 2011

Submitted by edg on Thu, 10 Nov '11 8.26pm

"It's not Christmas! It's not Christmas!" a friend's exasperated post on Facebook read on Monday. It's a feeling many will share around this time of year as the heavy wheels of the Christmas publicity machine creak and crunch into motion.

No, it's not Christmas yet. But by the end of this month Edinburgh will be in full festive mode.

Edinburgh's Christmas programme was announced earlier this week. Officially, Christmas starts on 24th November with Edinburgh's Christmas Light Night festivities on George Street, the Mound, and St Andrew Square.

Given its unpredictability, Edinburgh's weather is not a particularly helpful Yule-tide harbinger but were we to go by when the first flake of snow fell last year, then the end of this month would seem to augur in the festive period. Remember last year's Snowvember?

The last weekend of November is, of course, when cash tills start ringing out to the sound of Christmas shopping, although the Royal Mail Christmas 2011 postal dates are not until mid-December so there's no rush. Some will no doubt just boycott Christmas shopping altogether.

As for theatres, they too will be draping themselves in festive glitter soon. Although not all of them are decking their programmes in Christmas green and red...

Christmas theatre programmes

Edinburgh's Theatreland preparations have long been underway for this year's field of Christmas shows: Qdos Entertainment and the King's Theatre launched its Christmas show, Cinderella, back on 5th October.

The archetypal traditional panto, Cinderella runs from Saturday 3 December 2011 to Sunday 22 January 2012, with all the classic ingredients of panto dames, boo hiss baddies, and noisy  audience participation.

Panto vets Allan Stewart and Andy Gray play dame Baroness McSquirrel and the loveable Buttons. Grant Stott is back in the red high heels he donned in for last year’s Jack and the Beanstalk as Ugly Sister and general nasty piece-of-work Gobina McPhlegm. He is joined by Ross Marshall who plays his wee sister Hocktoo McPhlegm, “...surely making them the tallest and smallest, as well as ugliest and meanest siblings in pantoland!” goes the press release.

Bourne again Nutcracker

If it's more mystique, than cringeworthy laughs that you're looking for in a Christmas show, popular choreographer Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker! (Festival Theatre, 29 November - 3 December) might be more your thing.

Since 2002 Bourne's dance troupe has re-imagined classics such as Swan Lake, The Car Man, Cinderella and Edward Scissorhands, among other shows. Matthew Bourne’s interpretation of the Nutcracker was one of the first shows put on by his company New Adventures.

This 20th anniversary production of the original Nutcracker stops by Edinburgh on a 21-venue tour that continues across the UK until May. The story follows Clara’s bittersweet journey from a bleak night at Dr. Dross’ Orphanage for waifs and strays, through a shimmering, ice-skating, winter wonderland to the scrumptious candy kingdom of Sweetieland.

Tchaikovsky’s famous score, Olivier Award-winning designer, Anthony Ward’s sets and costumes combine with Bourne's hip interpretation of this traditional favourite. As well as many debut dancers the cast includes the original Clara from 1992, Etta Murfitt.

Back in Old Siam

The Festival Theatre follows this up with Rogers and Hammerstein's classic, feel-good musical The King and I (14 December – 7 January 2012) which features memorable melodies such as The March of the Siamese Children, Shall We Dance, I Whistle A Happy Tune, Hello Young Lovers and the unforgettable Getting To Know You.

Ramon Tikaram plays the King and Josefina Gabrielle the British governess brought to the court of Siam to tutor many children. Producers Leicester’s Curve promise “a giant gold Buddha, sumptuous costumes, a chorus of adorable children, acrobatic dancers, and live music”.

Royal panto, Lyceum style

Meanwhile, Beauty and the Beast is this year's christmas show at the Royal Lyceum , written by longtime panto scribe Stuart Paterson. In this version of the fairy tale, a brave Beauty (Ruth Milne) overcomes her fears to befriend a reclusive beast (Andrew Rothney). As the Beauty and the Beast warm to each other, the malevolent witch Crackjaw plots and schemes to defeat all that is “good and pure” between them. The pair must stop her evil plan, and prove that love really does conquer.

The Royal Lyceum Christmas productions - such as last year's The Snow Queen - are usually of a high standard.

Puppetry at the Traverse

For youngsters (3-7 year olds) the Puppet Lab is presenting Lost Sock Princess at the Traverse Theatre (14-23 December) an interactive show featuring piles of socks and imagination.

Moving up the age groups, Lyceum Youth Theatre have two nights of its Kick Ass Christmas (15 & 16) and adults can enjoy Jo Clifford's time-travelling Edinburgh and Scotland-set comedy The Tree of Knowledge (8-24 December) which is notable for its apparent absense of Christmas theme.

In it, we see modern Scotland through the learned, Enlightment era eyes of philosopher David Hume and the father of modern economics Adam Smith after they awaken in Edinburgh in the early 21st Century.

Queen theme at Playhouse

The Playhouse goes back to the future with Queen themed musical and general all-round crowd-pleaser We Will Rock You, which returns for an extended run from 29 November to 7 January.

More Christmas shows

The Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh is staging a new version of Aladdin (29 November to 2 January). The traditional panto promises a dame Widow Twankey (Colin Carr), local references, silly gags, popular songs, and Scottish actors.

As well as christmas storytelling sessions at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile, Blunderbus Theatre Company present a musical winter's tale with puppety based on Diana Hendry's The Very Snowy Christmas on 23rd and 24th December. Sylvia Troon and Donald Smith are also back with Stories Round the Tree on Christmas Eve.

Check our reviews section for the latest Edinburgh theatre reviews