Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

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Until December 29

Reviewed by Mark Brown

Is it a pantomime, a musical or a piece of Christmas story theatre? These questions occur during and, most problematically, after the performance of the Lyceum's latest yuletide offering. Written by the irrepressible Johnny McKnight, author of three Scottish Christmas shows this year, it is a production which, like an Australian Santa in beach shorts, has a distinct crisis of identity.

The Lyceum is well known for its classy, high-end, story-driven Christmas shows. Director Mark Thomson's decision to deviate from his theatre's tried-and-tested festive route looks like recklessness.

McKnight's relocation of the Cinderella story to latter-day Paris, where our eponymous heroine is (like every other teenage girl in France) in love with Prince Pierre (the TV idol who "isn't really a prince"), comes with the combination of pop culture references, comic vulgarity and genuine wit that has become the Ayrshire dramatist's trademark.

Cinderella (Julie Heatherill on winsome form) battles the evil witch Monique (a sassy Jayne McKenna), but her desperate efforts to save her invitation to Prince Pierre's party and her entranced father (Grant O'Rourke) seem set to fail. Will the love of the fairy ghost of her dead mother (Gail Watson) and Monique's dumbstruck servant, named simply Boy (Spencer Charles Noll), save the day?

"Oh yes it will!" I hear you cry. However, for all its panto-style adornments (replete with farting and belching jokes), no audience participation is encouraged, or, indeed, offered. Instead, as the show moves its uncomfortable and faltering way from one song to the next, the show has simply too little comedy and insufficient engagement to succeed as a stage musical for children.

In fairness, composer Alan Penman has come up with a few memorable tunes, while McKnight's lyrics, like the little girl from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, range from the very good to the horrid. Martin McCormick is a blast as the vain egomaniac prince, but too little is made of the considerable comic talents of O'Rourke.

Ultimately, however, one is unpleasantly surprised to see a Lyceum Christmas show which is so insipid, so unsure of itself and which, consequently, gives so little to its audience.