Creeping Beauty

December 14, 2019 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆  Fairy dust

Wee Red Bar: Mon 9 – Sat 14 Dec 2019
Review by Thom Dibdin

In the midst of panto season, Edinburgh’s Pretty Knickers grassroots company get their mitts on the genre, give it a twist in the traditionals and plump it slap back down in the 21st century as Creeping Beauty.

The best pantomimes take the traditional – whether that be Variety itself or a well-known tale of jeopardy and redemption – and make it their own while retaining a strong sense of the original. Which puts the Pretty Knickers crowd up there with the best with a beautifully measured retread of Sleeping Beauty.

Lana Pheutan and Mhairi McCall. Pic: Pretty Knickers

With a six strong company it was never likely that Variety was going to be the route taken. Instead, Mhairi McCall’s script makes Aurora (who she plays herself) a social media influencer, driven on by her insatiably ambitious and not very nice Mumager.

When it’s the chance of a birthday night off, all Aurora really wants to do is get down the pub, swallow a few Blue WKD’s and let her hair down at the pub quiz with her best pal, Claire Docherty’s doughtily gallus Glaswegian Versace.

Lana Pheutan’s primping, celebrity-obsessed Mumager has other ideas and has invited the internet to view Aurora’s A-list party ball – for a subscription fee – but certainly not her snotty brat of a best pal since forever!

In-your-face sense of fun

It’s all delivered with a brash, in-your-face sense of fun and some solid tunage to boot with McCall re-writing the words for a slew of recognisable tunes. Some start out in registers that are rather lower than the company are comfortable with, meaning that the lack of amplification is noticeable, but everything is clear in its delivery.

Sarah Dingwall and Niamh Kinane. Pic Pretty Knickers

Of course, the baddies get all the best tunes. And Sarah Dingwall’s dark witch and wannabe influencer Maleficent and Niamh Kinane as her eerily disconnected but efficient big sister Cordelia deliver them with excellently tight choreography.

Fortunately, given Maleficent and Cordelia’s ability to infiltrate the party, Becky Niven’s good fairy is on hand to throw sweeties at (as opposed to into!) the audience, glitter and beauty tips at the other characters and not-yet-quite tamed magic all around the stage.

The overall result is a solidly grown-up affair which transcends its student credentials to appeal to a wide audience, with smatterings of politics, the odd bit of innuendo – but never too much – some clever wordplay, loads of audience participation and plenty of very bad puns.

guilty secrets

Pantomime is a genre which, in professional productions, is too often overloaded with male performers. Given that this is a conscious decision from the producers, it should be noted that there is nothing lacking in this production which has no male performers at all.

Claire Docherty and Becky Niven. Pic Pretty Knickers

The best of McCall’s writing, however, is that she does not just know the guilty secrets of the pantomime audience – disdain for a too-good heroine, support for the daffy best pal as the true heart-winner and attraction to the Baddie’s villainy – but is able to work it into a resolution which is the best seen for a long time.

Pretty Knickers has delivered some interesting Edinburgh fringe productions over recent years. Thanks to the constraints of fringe venues and their sight-lines these have not necessarily achieved their full potential.

In the Wee Red Bar, however, the company has the perfect space in which to put on their wings and fly. And in this bawdy production which pays rather more attention to the details than first appearances would indicate, they have done just that.

Running time: One hour and 20 minutes (no interval
The Wee Red Bar, Lady Lawson Street, EH3 9DF
Mon 9 – Sat 14 Dec (not Thurs 12) 2019
Evenings: 7.30pm; Sat mat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

ENDS

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