As we approach our 109th King’s Theatre Edinburgh panto, we look back on the most popular shows, the most fabulous dames and the stars who have made it shine across the decades.
1. The first ever show at the King’s was a panto, Cinderella way back in 1906. There has been a panto every year since apart from 1963, 1965 and 1968 when – can you believe it?! – panto was ‘out of fashion’.
2. This year’s pantomime Beauty and the Beast is a title last performed as the King’s panto in 1946. 2018 will be only the 5th time in King’s panto history that Beauty and the Beast has been performed.
3. The most frequently performed panto titles in King’s history are: Cinderella (18 times), Jack and the Beanstalk (12 times), Aladdin (12 times) and Babes in the Wood (10 times).
4. Allan Stewart holds the record for playing Dame in the King’s panto more times than any other actor, although it was I an entirely different role that he made his Leven St debut back in 1989. Then he was a broker’s man in that year’s production of Robin Hood & Babes in the Wood.
5. 1998 was the first King’s panto that featured Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott together in the cast.
6. Allan made his panto debut in Cinderella at the Glasgow Pavilion in 1975, Andy Gray performed in his first panto in 1982 and the baby of the three Grant Stott made his panto debut at the King’s in 1993 in Dick Whittington starring Allan Stewart and Christopher Biggins.
7. The King’s panto ‘babes’ are an Edinburgh institution. The shows have featured child performers joining the big dance numbers for generations, and some ‘babes’ have even progressed to joining the ensemble. Currie High pupil Katie Kedslie, who stated dancing at the age of four, made her stage debut as a King’s panto babe in 2003 at the age of 10 and returned to the King’s in 2014 to make her professional debut as a dancer in the company ensemble. Every year over 30 children from Edinburgh Dance Academy get the opportunity to shine on the King’s stage.
8. The much-loved Hi-de-Hi! actor Ruth Madoc, currently back in Edinburgh starring in Calendar Girls the Musical on the Festival Theatre stage, performed in the King’s panto in 1980-81 as Robin Hood in Babes in the Wood. In the role of ‘principal boy’, Ruth led a stellar cast that included Jack Milroy, Ricky Fulton, Fiona Kennedy as ‘principal girl’ and Gregor Fisher and Tony Roper as ‘the robbers’. ‘I was so lucky to work with all these wonderful actors’ says Ruth. ‘Little did I think back then when I was not quite 40 that I would still be on stage at the age of 75.’
9. Gretchen Franklin, who found national treasure fame as Ethel in Eastenders, donned a cat costume to play Puss in Boots at the King’s in 1951.
10. Over the decades all the top dames have sashayed onto the King’s stage including George Lacy, Stanley Baxter, Douglas Byng, Jimmy Logan and Terry Scott of Terry & June fame.