6 of the best: winter theatre highlights in Glasgow and Edinburgh
From traditional panto to queer nativity, there's something theatrical for everyone over the festive season
After their re-emergence at last year’s Glasgay! festival, lifestyle gurus Tranny and Roseannah return to Scotland with a Christmas show that promises to reinvent the festive season for adults. Teaming up with intimate performance maestro Adrian Howells, the dynamic duo bring their glamorous brand of cabaret-style antics – with a hint of spectacular fashion – to The Arches, Glasgow’s home of alternative theatre. A Gay in a Manger reunites Laurie Brown and Rosana Cade for a sideways look at the traditional nativity story. ‘You can expect everything you’d usually have, including a singalong,’ says Cade. ‘Only bent.’
The Arches, Glasgow, Thu 12‒Sat 21 Dec.
The Traverse has always avoided the obvious during the Christmas period, and the revival of Ciara, David Harrower’s Fringe hit, is a bold exception to the Yuletide rule. Set in a Glasgow of gangs and fraying respectability, the play features a stunning performance from Blythe Duff – formerly best known for her role in Taggart, but now building a reputation as a contemporary stage legend. Harrower’s skill at forging Scottish vernacular into a resonant, even poetic, majesty lifts the script beyond being another exercise in Glasgow’s mean-city nostalgia: Duff’s charisma lends her heroine a tragic grandeur in this bracing antidote to pantomime jollity.
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 3 Dec‒Sat 21 Dec.
Last year, Johnny McKnight established himself as the maestro of the modern pantomime: writing shows for Macrobert in Stirling and Edinburgh’s Lyceum, he was also the writer-director and star turn in the Tron’s annual jamboree. His sly awareness of popular culture and broad, camp humour is revisited in Peter Panto and the Incredible Stinkerbell, making this year’s Tron pantomime, complete with flatulent fairy, another entry in the theatre’s list of subversive and very Glaswegian festive frolics. McKnight’s cheeky humour is a perfect match for the Tron’s knowing audience: expect playful mockery of rival shows, hilarious set pieces and a fair number of local jokes.
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 29 Nov‒Sat 4 Jan 2014.
The King’s Theatre has again secured three of Scotland’s favourite pantomime stars for its version of Peter Pan: treading more familiar territory than the Tron’s remix of the same story, this is nonetheless set to be a spectacular show that fulfils the expectations of lavish scenery and familiar faces. Andy Gray, Allan Stewart and Grant Stott team up again for a large-scale fantasy aimed at the whole family. Ever-youthful Peter will be swinging from the rafters, Hook will creep up behind the heroes, and the banter between stage and audience will no doubt be in full, deafening, effect.
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 30 Nov‒Sun 19 Jan 2014.
Although this is Tramway’s first foray into the ‘winter show’, Red Shoes does not lack ambition. Creator and performer Judith Williams has, she says, ‘a deep wish to nurture instinct and to encourage us all to listen to the little voices that speak deeper truths’. She’s a versatile performer, equally at home singing from the Great American Songbook as starring in Cryptic’s experimental Orlando. Red Shoes brings her talents together in a story that takes Judy Two Shoes on a journey into the conflict between duty and desire. Supported by workshops that explore themes from the show, Red Shoes has been developed as an inclusive, non-commercial celebration.
Tramway, Glasgow, Fri 29 Nov‒Sat 21 Dec.
The Pavilion pantomime is often forgotten in Christmas previews – yet it represents one of the oldest traditions in Scottish theatre. Famous for being unashamedly politically incorrect (local characters and institutions are frequently targeted) and starring a host of local faces (this year, Michelle McManus and Joyce Falconer join Johnny ‘I’m Enjoying Myself’ Mac and Dean Park, dubbed King of Panto by the Daily Record). Raucous, anarchic and a guilty pleasure, the Pavilion pantomime holds on to the music-hall origins of the Christmas show, and much of its energy comes from the enthusiastic, loyal and lively audience.
Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 27 Nov–Sun 19 Jan 2014.