Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Ugly Duckling and Aganeza Scrooge - Glasgow's Christmas shows round-up
The Citz, The Arches, The King's and The Tron all set to host special festive performances
Having scored widespread approval for his first season in charge at the Citz, scooping the CATS Best Director gong for his production of Pinter’s Betrayal, Dominic Hill is turning his talents to the Gorbals theatre’s annual Christmas play. And while he has plenty of experience in overseeing festive shows, both as artistic director at Dundee Rep and, subsequently, the Traverse, it’s with particular excitement that he’s plunging into this production of Sleeping Beauty.
‘I think there is something really special about a Christmas show at the Citz,’ he says. ‘The atmosphere of the Victorian auditorium always reminds me of seeing pantos in my local theatre when I was a kid. There’s a kind of magic about the Citizens Theatre that I associate with childhood and those first visits to Christmas shows. So I can’t wait to try and recreate that same feeling for young people today.’
The script for the show was written by award winning director Rufus Norris, who created the opera Dr Dee with Blur’s Damon Albarn for the 2011 Manchester International Festival. Set in a Tim Burton-style dark fantasy world, and with a flatulent fairy and a fearsome ogre among the cast, the adaptation provides a fresh take on a familiar tale. ‘I’ve always loved Rufus’ script,’ agrees Hill. ‘It’s very funny, very dark, quite scatological and ultimately redemptive. Just what a Christmas show should be.’
And it’s not just the quality of the script that marks Sleeping Beauty out as a must-see. Having contributed an atmospheric soundtrack to this year’s production of King Lear, Paddy Cunneen is creating the music for the Christmas play, all of which will be live and performed by the cast.
‘I always love working with Paddy on shows,’ says Hill. ‘There will be a strong element of singing but it will be very playful and innovative. We’ll discover the role music will play during rehearsals. I’m hoping it will be a little like the music for a Monty Python film – funny and very silly.’
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Sat 1 Dec–Sun 6 Jan.
The Ugly Duckling
The last couple of years have seen a welcome spike in the number of Christmas shows aimed at very young children and babies. This December’s collaboration between the Arches and leading company for children, Catherine Wheels, invites toddlers as young as three to enjoy a new glitterfuelled adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s heart-warming tale about a homely-looking bird and his quest for love and acceptance.
Written by Andy Manley, who scored a big hit at the same venue last year with the funny and inventive Rudolph, this version of Andersen’s story casts its hero as a lover of disco, whose quest for a good boogie is almost as important as his desire to be loved and accepted. Expect plenty of fingerclickin’ tunes and a glitterball on almost permanent rotation.
Arches, Glasgow, Fri 30 Nov–Sun 30 Dec.
For two decades, the panto at Glasgow’s King’s was synonymous with Gerard Kelly’s amazing fright wig and infectious cries of ‘Hiya paaals!’ Kelly may have passed away in 2010 but performers Karen Dunbar and Gavin Mitchell have quickly established themselves as the keepers of the panto flame.
This year Dunbar returns for her fifth festive outing, belting out gags and show tunes in her role as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, the perfect foil to Mitchell’s grotesquely funny Ugly Sister.
And the starry casting doesn’t end there. Scottish comedian and DJ Des Clarke also takes to the stage as Cinders’ best pal, Buttons, while We Will Rock You star Jenny Douglas appears as the eponymous heroine. With colourful costumes, plenty of audience interaction and tons of local gags also in the mix, panto king Kelly, you feel, would have been proud.
King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 30 Nov–Sun 6 Jan
Yep, it’s that man Johnny McKnight again, theatre multi-tasker extraordinaire and reigning king of the Scottish pantosphere. As you can probably guess from the title, this year’s festive production for the Tron, which McKnight writes and directs, is a feminine twist on that seasonal classic, A Christmas Carol, featuring a heroine so mean-spirited she makes the Grinch look the very soul of munificence.
As Christmas Eve rolls around, a slough of despond settles over Dickensian Street, home of Aganeza Scrooge, the world’s scariest skinflint. She’s had her fill of the Christmas spirit espoused by her employee Bobby Scratchit and his son Whiny Tim and is on a mission to cancel Christmas – permanently. Surely even a visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future can’t melt her resolve – or can it?
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 30 Nov–Sat 5 Jan.