Bounding around the stage like the love child of a Broadway diva and an errant drill sergeant, Barrowman is the perfect pantomime prince and principle, bouncing in his leatherette boots and putting in an energetic and exuberant performance as the shipwrecked Robinson Crusoe. As the crown prince of camp and unapologetic cheese, he works the spirited audience like Twankee works a mangle, belting every note into the farthest corner of the 3,000 seater arena and making sure that the back row feels as involved as the first.
The perennial driftwood of festive theatre, The Krankies have once again climbed to the top of the beanstalk of pantomime. Brimming with banter, the First Couple of Scottish variety are as fresh and funny as ever, stealing every scene as Crusoe's father and "identical" twin brother. Script writer Alan McHugh's quick and gleeful script allows the pair to showcase their sketches and songs to a new generation of kids aiming to become "Dirty Wee Boys" like Jimmy and the effect is enough comic gold to fill one of Blackbeard's chests.
And yet, it's not all plain sailing. The ensemble of the piece, a fifteen strong crew of acrobats and dancers, find themselves, like the little mermaid herself, stripped of a voice and forced to mime during their group performances. As a consequence, their numbers are at times lifeless and unpleasantly artificial, watching them mouth Sondheim lyrics in accents which are not their own.
The plot, too, has enough holes in its stern to sink the Titanic and, as such, loses any sense of narrative drive. Sloppiness is sloppiness, however endearing the cast or the script may be. The sequencing of scenes lacks any great purpose and, when the good ship Barrowman drops anchor at its conclusion, the characters aren't much further than when they first found their sea legs.
But this is panto, not Pinter, and Qdos Entertainment have produced a theatrically exciting and at times visually enrapturing night which is bound to capture kids from one to ninety two.