Now firmly installed as master of ceremonies at Perth’s annual pantomime, writer, director and leading dame Barrie Hunter has settled on a winning formula – establish a tenuous connection to a fairy story, throw in a blend of fast-paced thrills and light topicality, and then steal the show.
This year, plucky sailor Sinbad (Rehanna MacDonald) is one of a cast of heroes, which includes her Where’s Wally-ish nerdy brother Finn Lad and their new friend Greta, a pig-tailed eco-warrior who crafts a raft made of recycled plastic bottles.
Their mission is to stop Greta’s wicked stepmother Vindicta – Helen Logan, a wickedly over-the-top panto villain – from dispatching the beaver population of the town of Perthsepolis. Led by Hunter’s Dame Jackie Alltrades, the heroes need to stop Vindicta so they can sustain the natural environment for the beavers.
All the most trad plot devices and stylistic gimmicks are here, but Hunter directs his cast – including a small squad of local kids – to keep up a fresh and enthusiastic pace, and the respective musical direction and choreography of Alan Penman and Brooke Robertson bring old and new pop hits to life. Becky Minto’s costume and set reflect this sense of the fun and fantastical.
More widely known in Scotland for his straight performances at Dundee Rep, Hunter plays Jackie like he plays all his Dames, with the crackling humour and edge-walking hints of adult content. His presence on Perth’s stage is added value for the theatre.