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Jack and the Beanstalk, King’s Edinburgh

Star rating: ***

So the lads are back together - that’s lads as in Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott, a triumvirate that could make this Edinburgh panto a feast of fun whatever the story.

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Unfortunately, an entertaining formula has now edged over into the kind of dominant feature that sees the plot give way to standalone comedy sequences, while other traditional characters bow out all together.

Jack is now an only child with no silly-billy brother jollying the audience along – he hardly gets a look in beyond scaling the beanstalk and providing love interest for Jo Freer’s Princess. She gets a whiff of a sub-plot pinched from Mother Goose: she’s a Cheryl Cole wannabe who persuades the Fairy (an engaging Moyo Akande) to transform her – then finds Jack prefers the old, spec-wearing Ugly Betty chubbette. That just about suspends disbelief as high as the wire that flies Stewart in for his entrance.

Regular fans are unlikely to be disappointed with Stewart strutting his stuff as Dame McTrott, Gray (after three years away) slipping back into numpty mode as King Crumble, and Stott as the evil Fleshcreep, constantly promoting audience participation in the form of boos. But the kids around me, though diverted by the effects, resisted the running gags that tried hard for topicality by referencing TV hits like Glee, Strictly Come Dancing and Pineapple Dance Studios. The Giant’s demise is a bit of an unscary fudge, soon eclipsed by the real biggie, Allan Stewart, heading up the finale with his signature “Rockin’ all over the world”. Fun for some – but no longer true panto for all.

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