Desert island risks

27th December 1996 at 00:00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh until January 25

Billing itself as both a panto and a musical, this year's King's Christmas production has been bought in rather than home-produced and, with David Essex (right) in the title role, it's packing them in.

A good old-fashioned glitzy show, it fairly romps along without too much attention to detail, getting the plot out of the road to make way for the song and dance routines.

That said, one would have expected more songs - and certainly more solos - from the pop star who nevertheless makes a fair stab at acting, but never seems quite at home in Crusoe's boots.

The jokes are corny even for a panto and at times the script strains to be politically correct in a rather self-conscious way. It is also peppered with lots of local references to make the native feel at home, but it never really loses its visiting production feel.

Comic Bobby Bennett takes on the panto dame role (Henrietta Sidebottom) with relish. A thorough pro, he knows his business and certainly works for his money, acting as a warm-up before we even get started.

It must be a compliment that his comic demeanour kept eliciting memories of the late Lex McLean. A real panto dame from the old school and there's not many of them left.

Local children from Edinburgh's Theatre School of Dance and Drama attract a lot of the oohs and aahs in their cutesy animal costumes and certainly deserve the ovation given, while double act John Labanowski (Red Beard) and Micky O'Donoghue (Winkle) cause comic chaos as the cowardly and none-too-bright pirates.

Audience participation is de rigeur in this one, even to the point of stoning the pirates - with bags of foam bricks that are handed out. Spare a thought for the cleaners afterwards. But, then, that's showbiz.

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