A SPRINKLING of magic dust was JM Barrie's way of getting the earthbound Darlings soaring all the way to Neverland. Clearly there's been a mega-showering of magic dust at the King's - after last year's rather tired effort, Edinburgh's big family panto is flying, and flying spectacularly high.
Fast-paced, lavishly designed and crisply scripted, the production cannily cherry-picks the story elements that lend themselves to a panto treatment: the pirates and Tiger-Lily's braves are shoo-ins for high-energy dance routines; Hook's nemesis, the Crocodile, is an irresistible reason to design a really scary, really huge scaly head with glowing eyes and snack-snacking jaws; and Hook himself is a tailor-made opportunity for Grant Stott to be archly, plummily villainous in a fabulous costume.
There's Pan, of course, and Tinkerbell, characters much-loved by children of all ages. Daniel Healy and Shona White ensure there's magic (and great music) in the air. And then there's Mr and Mrs Smee... Who? Well this is where the panto's creative team understandably part company with Barrie. Since Andy Gray and Allan Stewart are an unlikely Peter and Wendy, they are the Smees, a superbly doolally duo who gleefully bounce gags off each other - and anyone else who comes within punning distance.
It's the double act we know and love, but a shift of comedic approach - out go the old catchphrases, for instance - sees their partnership back on brilliantly ridiculous form. Gray's vocal cantrips with the word "balloon" is just one of many treats, while Stewart's shorter frocks seem to release him from being matronly into leggy friskiness.
It just feels as if cobwebs have been dusted off what had become routine: what you get now is a panto that sparkles and shines.