Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates
Paul Elliott and Allan Stewart
Qdos Entertainment Ltd
King's Theatre, Edinburgh
A tattooed bum, a flying tram and a troupe of adorable dancing monkeys; it can only be the King's panto Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates.
This is the title's second outing for Qdos, previously seen in Newcastle last year. Since then it has been re-written and re-worked and in doing so a much stronger production has been created.
The problem with Robinson Crusoe is that the pantomime plot is virtually unknown and extremely simple: man with treasure map sails to find treasure, which he does. Obviously his journey doesn't run smoothly, but he overcomes any demons he encounters and, like all good heroes, becomes rich and wins the girl of his dreams in the end.
Paul Elliot and Allan Stewart have done wonders with the script, transporting us to Mango Island as soon as possible. Here the real adventure begins and Robinson meets the Girl Friday of his dreams.
Girl Friday is superbly played by Moyo Omoniyi, the only principal newcomer to the King's stage this year. She soulfully sings her musical numbers 'I Need A Hero' and 'Copacabana', dances with boundless energy and is a very strong actor. It is amazing to think she only recently graduated from Arts Ed in 2008, already performing as if she's trodden the professional boards for many years.
Stewart is back as lovable, but a bit naughty Mrs. May Crusoe and proves he deserves his place amongst the great British Dames. Out of breath he comments that Stanley Baxter was never expected to do the exhausting 'Twelve Days of Christmas' routine, reminding us that this stage has a long history of wonderful Dames, still going strong under Stewart's tenure.
Whereas Newcastle had Danny Adams in the title role, Edinburgh has it very own Johnny Mac. There are many similarities between the two and one wonders whether this was the main draw for the production's move to Scotland? This is Mac's second season as Stewart's son and the two work well together as comedy partners.
Jo Freer plays Minnie the magical mermaid and her DJ turned pirate husband Donald McTrump, aka Blackheart, is played by regular baddy Grant Stott. The two also provide much humour with their constant marital bickering, but were upstaged in the finale by mini McTrump their 'son' who jumped every time his Pirate 'dad' approached and stole the show's final number by boogying on down to the extreme, which was most definitely spontaneous and even had the cast bemused.
As pantos start to close throughout the British Isles this production is still going strong and credit must be given to the King's team who make the show look as fresh as opening night. An ensemble of nine superb dancers keep the pace of the panto up with their well choreographed numbers and look like they have as much fun as the audience do each night.
Next year's panto has been announced as Jack and the Beanstalk. Let's hope the usual King's crew reunite for another year of fun, including Omoniyi. She would make the perfect Jack to Stewart's Dame and Mac's comic, restoring a female principal boy to the King's stage after a prolonged period of absence.
Playing until 17th January 2010
Reviewer: Simon Sladen