EACH year Edinburgh King’s Theatre has the momentous task of trying to outdo their previous panto, writes Times theatre critic Kerry Black.

This year, for the first time in around 70 years, they have chosen to do the spectacular “Beauty and the Beast”, truly a tale as old as time, packed to the gunnels with all their trademark local jokes and huge, lavish numbers.

Allan Stewart returns to reign supreme as Mrs Potty/ Auntie May with another fabulous array of daft routines and dame costumes. Forget The Greatest Showman, Allan is The Greatest Showdame and his finale costume would not have gone amiss gracing Mae West! Once again, “local broadcaster and star of Outlander”, Grant Stott played the baddie, the lecherous Flash Boaby, who sets his sights on winning the heart of the beautiful Belle (the glorious Gillian Parkhouse, who played Cinderella last year).

Normally in pantoland, despite having the title role, most Princesses play a fairly minor role, however this year as King’s favourite Andy Gray is genuinely “no’ very weel!”they cranked up her role to take full advantage of her tongue-twisting comic timing!

The principal cast was rounded out by the beautiful singing talents of Jacqueline Hughes as The Enchantress, while Chris Cowley made a jaw dropping transformation from Prince to Beast and back again and Daniel Cullen played Dougal (or was it Douglas?), Belle’s chakkit brother.

Fortunately, The King’s have again secured the sponsorship of Rowan Glen, (whose giant mascot was prowling the reception areas,) plus Arts & Business Scotland, to ensure that they continue to put on their sparkling extravaganzas to maintain their title as the best-selling panto in Scotland!

Folk love panto and as soon as you enter the theatre you know you are in for a magical night as bairns of all ages appear in light up hats, daft Christmas jerseys and even wee Belle costumes! In fact I even met a bus load fae darkest Lochgelly!

This panto mixes the best of the old and the new with references to Love Island and selfies, mixed in with good old fashioned corny routines, dancing gingerbread men, showgirls, plus cute child dancers too, plus their usual mind-blowing Act 1 finale special effect! While this year’s singalong to “Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer” provided a memorable Mrs Potty lesson to naughty children everywhere!

Loveliest of all, while Andy may not have been on stage his presence was everywhere from Auntie May’s personalised car registration to asking the entire audience to send him a roof raising WhatsApp cheer!

Beauty and the Beast is on at The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh till Sunday January 20 2019, oh yes it is! Call 0131 529 6000 to book or Flash Boaby will get ye!