Tag Archives: Des Clarke

REVIEW: Peter Pan – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

It’s 50 years since the King’s Theatre launched its first family pantomime and almost a year ago to the day since it was announced that the 50th pantoversary show would be the never-before-seen Peter Pan. A host of panto favourites and TV talent were cast: Glasgow’s favourite panto villain Gavin Mitchell, riding high on the success of a record-breaking run at mega-arena The Hydro in the recently resurrected Still Game stage show would take the role of Captain Hook, Scottish TV stars Greg McHugh (Gary Tank Commander, Fresh Meat), Scott Fletcher (Gary Tank Commander, River City) would be Smee and Peter Pan and comedian and Capital Radio presenter Des Clarke, Starkey. Stakes were also set high when it was revealed that an expected 85000 tickets would be sold, a daunting fact that would also test the mettle of most actors.

So when Captain Hook’s ship found itself sailing into some stormy waters; panto favourite Mitchell had to withdraw from his pivotal role due to injury, only to be replaced by Luther‘s Warren Brown who then pulled out 24 hours before curtain up on opening night, it was going to take the most seasoned of veterans to step into the breach and onto the deck of the Jolly Roger at the eleventh hour. That veteran turned out to be Alex Bourne, an established West End actor, having starred as Buddy in the Buddy Holly Story, played six years as Khashoggi in We Will Rock You and Oliver Award nominated for his dual role as Fred Graham/Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate at Chichester Festival Theatre and the Old Vic.

It is testament to Bourne’s professionalism and talent that with a mere few days rehearsal we get a word perfect, classic pantomime villain. The only pity being, that having heard Bourne’s wonderful voice in previous roles, we don’t get to hear it here. He deserves applause for merely agreeing to take this on, that he does it so well deserves a standing ovation.

This is no radical re-boot of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale nor is it a slavishly faithful re-telling, rather its a local re-working that sticks fairly closely to the major plot lines of the story: the Darlings are asleep in their beds in Glasgow when Peter Pan comes to visit, taking them on the adventure of a lifetime to Neverland via Tiger Lily’s camp, Dead Man’s Rock and of course Captain Hook’s Jolly Roger.

As with almost all pantos, subtlety has gone out of the window, though not too far in this case; the script gets laughs in all the right places from the audience of all ages and manages to refrain from cheap innuendo to do so, the design is relatively tasteful and naturalistic rather than garish and tacky and the music is a mixed bag of relatively recent hits and familiar old classics.

However the amplification levels of the orchestra, who it must be said were absolutely top notch, seemed to be set to stun or should I say deafen – coming in somewhere between road drill and jumbo jet take off, rendering the vocals of Joanne McGuinness (Wendy) and Jenny Douglas (Tiger Lily) inaudible; both have proved to have strong vocals in other productions so maybe a better balance is called for.

The stand out star though is McHugh, who utilises his persona as the effete Gary Tank Commander to full effect. With a raise of an eyebrow or a deadpan aside he has the audience in tears. He has you wishing the scenes away when anyone else is on just to see what he comes up with next. McHugh is ably supported by fellow comedian Des Clarke who, in his third appearance in panto at the King’s, knows just how to wrap a Glasgow audience around his little finger. The ensemble and supporting cast too deliver solid performances throughout.

It all adds up to become classic, family friendly entertainment of the highest order.

Runs until Sun 11th January 2015

REVIEW: Aladdin – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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Originally written for http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Writer: Eric Potts

Director: Jimmy Chisholm

Musical Director: Ian Vince-Gatt

Choreographer: Joanne McShane

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

Crash, bang, wallop what a show, they don’t come any bigger than the full-on assault on the senses that is the annual King’s Theatre pantomime, which next year celebrates a 50 year unbroken run of festive shows. With a roster of Scottish acting and comedy talent and a storyline tailor-made for the Glasgow audience this is a year-on-year sell-out success and a long-held tradition with Glaswegian families. This year the story receiving the King’s treatment is Aladdin which, apart from some local in-jokes and the inevitable pop culture references for the tweenies, sticks to the traditional pantomime version of the story.

The success of any festive show is dependent on the strength of its actors and with a plot as holey as Widow Twankey’s capacious drawers; the casting of Scottish comedy icons Karen Dunbar (Mrs. McConkey/The Genie of the Ring), Des Clarke (Wishee Washee) and Gavin Mitchell (Abanazar) is inspired. The sublime comedy skills of the trio are the glue that binds the whole thing together. Dunbar, in particular is a star; a woman who merely needs to raise an eyebrow or flare a nostril to have an audience in stitches, that she is also in possession of a belter of a voice is a fabulous bonus. Mitchell is also in top form as evil baddie Abanazar; giving his best Tim Curry à la Rocky Horror voice and the best “Mwa ha ha” evil laugh you’ll hear in years. As the titular character Kieran Brown has little to do apart from a magic carpet riding rendition of Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher and Higher’ and a few bits of fluff, as has Jenny Douglas, under-used as Princess Jasmine. The pair are highly gifted performers both in possession of first class musical theatre voices but here we only get glimpses of the talent underneath. The sets and costumes too, are stars in themselves; no expense has been spared in their design and construction and they read supremely well on stage; the word stunning simply doesn’t do them justice.

This is everything a Christmas show should be, with plenty for both adults and kids alike: there’s sparkle and pizzazz, there’s music and dancing, sing-a-longs and slapstick and the highlights more than make up for the sometimes saggy plot. With Aladdin, the King’s upholds its long held position as the number one pantomime in Glasgow.

Runs until 12th January 2014