If anyone’s in any doubt that panto season has been missed, then let the sight of Ugly Sisters Barrie Hunter and Ewan Somers remind you of the blend of wonder and bafflement we’ve all had to do without.
Dressed in matching frocks fashioned out of home and away St Johnstone strips, and leading the audience in a chorus in tribute to the team’s double cup win earlier this year, the pair remain two of the most dependable and naturally hilarious panto performers in the land.
“It’s a shame for all the United fans in, eh?” laughs Hunter.
Not really – they would have been loving it as much as everyone else, young and old. Although they might have had to grit their teeth in places.
The versatile Hunter is one of Scotland’s finest straight actors, but he’s also the real Prince of Perth’s panto.
As writer, director and co-star, his efforts are always dependably outstanding.
This year’s show spins a new edge out of a well-worn tale.
Betty Valencia’s Cinderella is a poor, downtrodden shop assistant who does all the hard work in her nasty stepmother’s department store, unaware that the deeds which prove her father actually left the shop to her are locked up tight in the basement.
Gleefully vindictive stepmother
Alongside a community cast of shop assistants who are fired at will by their imposter boss (Helen Logan, a gleefully vindictive stepmother, who works hard for her boos), Lewis Winter Petrie is Cinderella’s friend, co-worker and confidante Buttons.
Valencia and Petrie are a charming pair of leads, both young and cheerfully bright-eyed, good singers and dancers, but with the versatility to really sell the comedy too.
Under the guidance of Fairy Godmother Neshla Caplan, Buttons’ job is to pretend he’s a visiting handsome Prince in order to… well, to be honest the plan doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there are just desserts and comeuppances all round.
A whole load of fun
What the plan does do, though, is cancel out the old-fashioned message that all Cinderella needs to be happy is a rich man to marry.
It’s not really spoilering things to say that part of all’s-well-that-ends-well here is when she becomes her own boss.
That there’s a strong message at the core of the show doesn’t cancel out the fact it’s a whole load of fun from start to finish.
From choreographer Chris Stuart Wilson’s dance sequences for a bunch of pop and Christmas classics (played by Alan Penman and his band), to the community cast’s inexplicable but brilliantly enthusiastic cameo as a quartet of otters.
Hoovering up the laughs
At the core of it all are Hunter and Somers, each thoroughly unafraid to hoover up the laughs in the most embarrassing way possible, whether it’s Hunter’s Bella slobbering over Buttons or Somers’ Ella breaking wind every few minutes.
Once the inevitable ‘cloot’ has come down for the singalong (close your ears again, Dundee United fans) and in the midst of the pair’s audience dedications, Hunter’s welcome back to the theatre was heartfelt.
For the first time in the show, the tears he inspired weren’t caused by laughter.
Cinderella is at Perth Theatre until December 31.