- Lucy Ribchester
- 18 August 2021
All the pleasures and perils of a proper panto at the Fringe
This 'super summer pantomime' from Scotland's Kapow Theatre takes place in the new MultiStory venue, an open-air theatre (bring a brolly) set against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. The motives might be Covid-safety but the effect is akin to seeing a timeless group of travelling players turning up at a local market square. It's a perfect stage for panto.
Rapunzel is a production that, despite its modern costumes and contemporary jokes (the villainous Enchantress characterises evil people as mask-refusers), brings the simple, communal, classic joy of a pantomime to an audience starved of live theatre's pleasures. You can't shout 'it's behind you' at a laptop, or catch, on a tablet screen, the gust of energy that pantomime at its best brings, yanking you along on a story you've heard a million times already.
Kapow achieve all of this largely through its outstanding cast. Their storytelling brims with descriptive brio, and from the outset we're in constant conversation with them, on our feet dancing, singing along, and laughing at bottom jokes. Children in the audience are in their element. The only small missteps come in a couple of instances where old-fashioned values creep into the script. The prince is an ordinary lad called Sam which feels like progress. But when he arrives at Rapunzel's tower and announces, 'I'm here to save you', you feel as if all of the interesting work done earlier – there's an exploration of a strained, abusive, mother-daughter relationship between Rapunzel and the Enchantress – has been undone.
Similarly, the Enchantress' 'evil' is presented at first as vanity, stemming from the pressures of women to look youthful; she has no need for 'Botox and fillers' now she has Rapunzel's magic hair to make her young. But later the good Fairy Funky refers to her as 'ugly' and 'old', inviting us to collude in this as criticism. Some fairytales may need a modern overhaul, but let's hope panto is back for good.
Rapunzel, MultiStory, until Thursday 26 August, 10.30am, £10.