image0034 Dec 2018 The Guardian

Mammy Goose/Sleepin' Cutie

By Johnny McKnight. A Tron Theatre/Macrobert Arts Centre review

IS pantomime a reactionary form, mired in tradition and stuck with crowd-pleasing familiarity, or can it also be radical? Johnny McKnight, a one-man panto powerhouse who has been turning out two scripts a year for more than a decade, sees it as popular theatre at its most subversive. He loves the panto trappings – the lurid spectacle, the call-and-response, the dance routines and, above all, the comedy – but tied in with his voracious appetite for pop-culture trivia is a razor-sharp sense of an ever-changing world.

10 Dec 2017 The Guardian

Hiss, boo and no celebrity wannabes: Scotland's panto is the real thing

Round-up of pantos at King's Edinburgh, King's Glasgow, Perth Theatre and MacRobert, Stirling.

CINDERELLA is trying to remember where she’s seen Fairy May before. “I used to be on the TV,” prompts Allan Stewart’s Fairy Godmother. “Yes, when it was in black and white,” chips in Buttons. The joke is funny not just for being rude about Fairy May’s age, but because it’s close to being true. The last time Stewart was a small-screen regular was in the 1980s, when he starred in a run of ITV light-entertainment shows such as Copy Cats and Chain Letters. That speaks volumes not only about the success of this, the Edinburgh King’s panto, but of pantomimes across Scotland.


28 November 2016 The Guardian

Weans in the Wood

By Johnny McKnight. A MacRobert Arts Centre review

"WEANS in the Wood is about some weans in a wood,” says the voice of Stirling Stella at the start of the show. It has the circularity of “Brexit means Brexit”, but none of the pretence at certainty. Playwright Johnny McKnight knows, however, he’s not the only one who can’t remember the story of Babes in the Wood. His simple solution is to make up his own. To do so, he drafts in fairytale favourites, a la Sondheim’s Into the Woods, for a mix-and-match journey into the dark heart of the Pantosphere. Dawn Sievewright’s excellent Little Red, an ambivalent figure tottering between friend and foe, recalls her early days wearing a riding hood, has an estranged grandmother who lives in a Hansel and Gretel-style house made of sweets, and, after Katie Barnett’s lovable Gretel is bewitched into the dark side like Kay in The Snow Queen, re-emerges as an egalitarian Robin Hood.


2 December 2015 The Guardian

The Little Mermaid

By Johnny McKnight. A MacRobert Arts Centre review.

I DON'T think this is quite what Hans Christian Andersen had in mind. At least, he can’t have been thinking of the sub-aqua fart gags, the high-octane Taylor Swift choreography or dizzying barrage of pop-culture references. And he certainly couldn’t have conceived of Johnny McKnight, writer, director and star, wearing an octopus costume with creepy tentacle-like fingers and a bulbous head as horrifying as anything on Doctor Who.


13 April 2015 The Scotsman

The Pine Tree, Poggle and Me

By Natasha Gilmore. A Barrowland Ballet/MacRobert review.

POGGLE is the kind of otherworldly creature you might come across at the Beltane Fire Festival. She’s a woodland sprite in autumnal browns and greens whose preferred blanket is a layer of pine branches. Sometimes birdlike, sometimes animalistic, she moves with a touch of kathakali (jingling bells and all) and a dash of pelvis-rocking African dance. She is, as composer-cum-pine-tree Daniel Padden sings, a “mischief maker, maker of fun”.


Guardian 5 December 2013

Beauty and the Beast

By Johnny McKnight. A MacRobert Arts Centre review.

ROBIN THICKE faced global controversy over the ostensibly misogynistic content of his hit song Blurred Lines, but it's unlikely the singer was reckoning on the righteous might of the Macrobert panto. Towards the top of act two, the women adopt his suit‑and-shades combo to give the song an oestrogen-fuelled makeover and the lyrics some much-needed girl power. That's before honorary woman Johnny McKnight as the dame, Bunty Buntock, strips off her Mexican wrap of a dress (the inevitable consequence of a joke about a tortilla) to reveal her lettuce‑lined underwear (cue gag about salad dressing).

16 December 2011 The Scotsman

Too Many Penguins?

A Frozen Charlotte/MacRobert Arts Centre review.

YOU know that feeling when you've invited the relatives over for Christmas and it seems more and more keep showing up? You just don't know where to put them all. That's the dilemma faced by little Penguina in Frozen Charlotte's delightful show for the under-threes.


29 November 2011 The Guardian

Jackie and the Beanstalk

By Johnny McKnight. A MacRobert Arts Centre review.

IF anyone still thinks panto is a throwback to a misogynist past, they need to take a look at the MacRobert's glorious giant-slaying romp. Here, the fairytale is fuelled by a fiery female energy, with self-styled "panto-feminist" Jackie helping unmask a Wizard of Oz-style baddie who is little more than a boy with a broken heart. However ridiculous the women look, they are never so inadequate as the men.

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