For many years, the King's fielded an invincible panto double act in the shape of Allan Stewart, the consummate everywoman dame, and Andy Gray, a hangdog foil with a genius for working the crowd. Gray's departure a couple of years ago (this season, he's at Glasgow's Oran Mór) left Stewart carrying the show. If anything, he was too capable of this, exerting such control that he even ended up in the cave with Aladdin, which kept the laughs coming but negated the point of the boy's coming-of-age story.
Happily â and, indeed, hilariously â order has been restored in Robinson Crusoe, a thoroughly enjoyable romp that, barring an out-of-place appearance from the dog in the Churchill Insurance adverts, gets everything right.
There is no doubt Stewart is still the star. He is a man so comfortable in a woman's skin â neither camping it up nor sending it up â that it seems genuinely odd when two excited children in the audience refer to him as "him", prompting a rally of funny "him/her" ad libs from the cast. Whether he is imitating Susan Boyle, getting his mouth around a potentially filthy tongue-twister or rattling out corny puns, you are always delighted to see him on stage.
But there are two more reasons this show works so well. One is the healthy quotient of topical gags, which, in Edinburgh, means a broadside against the city's interminable tram works and wisecracks about Tiger Woods.
The other is the strength of the cast. Grant Stott is looking more comfortable than ever as Blackheart the Pirate, Jo Freer makes a feisty, fast-talking mermaid, Johnny Mac strikes a funny balance between fall guy and romantic lead, and even Charlie Cairoli's old-school clowning adds to the surreal fun.
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Guardian: Robinson Crusoe and the Caribbean Pirates | Theatre review
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