Writer and Director: Gordon Barr
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Before we close out the year folks there’s time for one last wee trip into Pantoland, with a Caledonian flair of course. Presented by the Byre Theatre, in association with Bard in the Botanics we open the pages of Sleeping Beauty, though with quite the twist. This time, instead of needing to be awoken by true loves kiss, Princess Bonnie needs to awaken herself whilst tip-toeing the line of family or self-fulfilment.
Pinching a plotline here or there from the likes of Brave, Frozen and well, Carrie it would seem… the medley all concocts into one spellbinding tale which results in a hilarious, warm-hearted but updated run of a traditional pantomime.
Our ferocious Princess Bonnie played by Kirsty Findlay is by no means your usual Princess. As customary, she no longer requires a dashing man to rescue her, needing no more than friends, faith and most vital – family. Findlay makes an excellent Bonnie McTeuchter, with the facial expressions of a jester but dramatic pathos of any dour leading lady. The finer moments of this Panto are not the jokes, the jabs or the sweeties but seeing Findlay interact with the likes of Cooper or McGregor.
What would Panto be without songs? Shorter. Sleeping Beauty lives up to Pantomime tradition of parodying hit musicals, pop classics and this year a rather delightful nod to Hocus Pocus. Borrowing (heavily) from The Greatest Showman soundtrack, just enough of the lyrics have been changed to provide relevance.
It’s in these later numbers where we realise that Findlay seems to be reigning in her pipes. Until now, most performers deliver panto styled vocals, but suddenly she reveals there may be more we are yet to hear. Whilst the likes of Samuel Pashby’s Prince Hamish may not serve vocally, his physical performance and good nature more than make up for this. Easily being one of the most enjoyable aspects.
Gird your loins, ladies and gentlemen. Lock up your husbands, lock up your sons and for heaven’s sake lock up the Reindeer as Allan Steele returns once more for a Byre Christmas. Providing the wholesomeness of the festive season, jolly, jovial but that added shot of bitter humour for the grown-ups. He banters with the crowd, easing the neigh Sayers into the show.
Saying this, it is Stephanie McGregor as Minnie who for everyone else’s marvellous efforts, is the true star. The passion on display for a production so many could write off as ‘for kids’ is wonderful.
How refreshing it is to have a Pantomime villain who has actual bones of malice to her character. Raven la Corbie takes panto villainy to the extreme, not even our hisses are satisfactory, multiple times decreeing; “let’s try that again”. The narrative tweaks enable Stephen Arden to serve up an ice-cold, yet still temptingly vicious antagonist with an excellent set of vocals for the numbers she headlines.
Despite blowing the budget before creating the woodlands, Cary Hobbs and Rory Beaton have designed a charming set, serving the purpose well and allowing for seamless set changes. Nothing feels over the top or garish, we’re rightfully enjoying the performances and not the flashy scenery.
As a venue, the Byre has had turbulent times since it’s days of A.B Patterson, Charles Marford or its 2001 re-opening. Passed many a time to many a hand, what the Byre undoubtedly proves is that like its festive production of Sleeping Beauty – with some care, dedication and talented locals you can produce something stupendous, but more importantly something to be proud of.
Runs until 5 January 2019 | Image: Viktoria Begg