BY JEAN WEST
WHEN a squad of scooter soldiers take to the highways and bi-ways of Portobello accompanied by a hit from Quadrophenia – you can be pretty much assured something cool is going down!
And when the bigger plot involves a murderous queen, a bunch of disgruntled shorties, an incontinent Prince and a leading lady who doesn’t know the difference between an iphone and an apple, it soon becomes apparent pantomime season is in for a major reworking.
Local actor and director, Shauna Macdonald, whose BAFTA-winning energy continues to streak infectious through her hometown like a determined winter bug, has had her newly named Edinburgh Youth Theatre (EYT) in training for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs since September.
And it bears only slight resemblance to the classic Brothers Grimm tale adapted for the big screen by Walt Disney. Macdonald’s assured direction, alongside award-winning comic, Keir McAllister’s inventive scripting of this bold, bright new pantomime, eschews the political incorrectness lauded over centuries in traditional servings of the genre. Instead, well-tuned gags and contemporary themes dictate change in the air.
As The Who’s ‘My Generation’ animates the two wheeled tiny scooter army in an imaginative filmed segue part way through the show – drawing on the guile of former partner in crime, Larah Bross and her bagel shop – the team capitalise on the strong beat of a local pulse so familiar to the audience.
Snow White, played deftly by LAMDA trained, actress, singer and comic Megan Shandley, is a ballsy, no-nonsense kinda gal, who knows how to be true to herself and isn’t up for leasing out the job of taking care of herself to anyone. That is until she takes a bite of a dodgy Granny Smith and is out of the game for a spell.
The dwarfs, six EYT students and Grumpy, (comedian Gareth Mutch of Viva La Shambles), who is coming to terms with being too tall to be in their gang, exhibit great team work, a magical sense of clowning and terrific comedy timing.
Other recourse to professionals, including Edinburgh-based performer and stand-up, Calum MacInnes, as an impressive and creepy, Snow Queen, whose gowns match his/her gusto, has not done the calibre of the show any harm. Fusing confident performers with the new green talent of her young actors brings something very inspiring to the stage and into their little lives.
Macdonald herself was guided into her career by time at the Brunton Youth Theatre where she met Scottish actor, James McAvoy, through it’s partnership with Pace Youth Theatre in Paisley.
There are some wonderful one liners in the show; the dwarfs are chastised for being ‘high on energy drinks,’ and comic reference to the controversy over the Brighton Place setts and public toilets on the prom, pokes gentle fun at local niggles.Worth special mention is circus artist, performer and teacher, Phil Hardie, who plays the mirror – imprisoned in his glassy shroud for decades – and whose gymnastics on a precarious trolley for much of the two hour show are formidable.
When he tells the audience his relationship with the abusive Snow Queen has shown him the meaning of #Me Too, offering a further dollop of current relevance to the mix, he wins our hearts .
The sound, costume and tech capabilities of the team are also keen and some of the songs in particular, the hypnotic, Poor Unfortunate Fools, from the Little Mermaid, has the flamboyance of the Disney blockbuster or a West End Musical.MacDonald, who grew-up in Portobello believes in the power of community interaction. Being at the fore of the first successful Urban Community Right To Buy scheme in Scotland to reclaim Bellfield Old Parish Church shows the level of her determination.
Dancers from the ever faithful Lothian Dance Academy bring in some aah’s and further endorse the show’s local pedigree. Nonetheless, this pantomime, wouldn’t have been out of place on some of the bigger stages in Edinburgh this season. But just now the locals of this Edinburgh seaside town are still cherishing it as something homegrown and beautiful.
Additional show information
Snow White and The Seven Dwarves was showing at Bellfield Church, Bellfield St, Portobello.Friday Dec 14-Sunday 15.Tickets £12.