Review – Junk Food Vampire/Granny was a Rock Star

June 15, 2013 | By More
The cast of Junk Food Vampire from Citadel Arts Group. Kiera Fitzgerald, Angus Skakle, Danielle McDougall and Clare Hibbert Photo © Jemima Sinclair

Junk Food Vampire with (left to right) Kiera Fitzgerald, Angus Skakle, Danielle McDougall and Clare Hibbert. Photo © Jemima Sinclair.

✭✭✭✩✩  On message

The Granary
Wed 12 – Sat 15 June 2013
Review by Irene Brown

Green is very much the colour of Citadel Arts Group’s diverse double bill of plays with strong and worthy environmental messages woven through them.

The evening opens with Celia Rose’s Junk Food Vampire, which has a clever play-within-a-play structure. Four young actors – Suzy (Kiera Fitzgerald), Maggie (Clare Hibbert), Alice (Danielle McDougall) and Jason (Angus Skakle) are  preparing for a school play with a message designed to raise consciences about the benefits of healthy eating.

Eager to please their drama teacher who, like Mrs Mainwaring in Dad’s Army, is referred to but never appears, they work out the best way to present the message. Masks, found in a dressing up box, open up possibilities in the classic battle of good versus evil.

Here a Queen of Health is linked in combat with the Junk Food Vampire (Skakle) – invisible to his victims, feeding off the sins of junk food eaters and thriving on their weakness for crisps and sugary drinks, but defeated by the mention of any proper food.

The songs which intersperse this short play are not all successful. The Happy and Healthy song has the feel of Glee Club singing, another was a bit hymn–like and the Lambeth Walk parody was a bit wonky but the piano adds some pertinent plinky plonk to the atmosphere.

The strong confident young cast step in and out of the dual characters showing impressive acting skills particularly from a very relaxed and natural Angus Skakle as Jason and the Vampire. They make a good go at getting the audience to join in with panto style shouting and capture the shallow hugs of luvvies to a tee.

Forbidden fruit
The cast of Granny Was A Rockstar. Photo © Citadel Arts Group

Granny Was A Rockstar with Iona Soper, Andrea McKenzie (with flowers) and Corinne Harris (guitar). Photo © Liz Hare

When Corinne Harris starts singing and playing the guitar during the ensuing scene change, it all feels quite incidental – until Harris stands up in the character of Kath, an ageing hippy rock star. Suddenly Dylan’s The Times they are a Changin’ and blast of Wild Mountain Thyme make sense.

Granny was a Rock Star has a fairy tale feel to it. Poor children, Donny (Andrea McKenzie) and Sandy (Iona Soper) steal forbidden fruit from the rich old woman next door. But rather than the fairy tale spell – or a realistic call to the polis – Kath, who used to gig with the girls’ late grandmother, enlists them to help her work on her abundant but overwhelming garden.

The lives of the girls and their mother change for the better thanks to the recycling of good will across generations when royalties come from a song that Grandmother Julia had featured on.

This is ambitious writing that attempts to encompass a lot in a short time. It is well performed all round with McKenzie, particularly, showing both comic mastery and versatility as tomboy Donny and accountant Tess. And there’s real authenticity to Jim Brown’s text, written in urban Scots.

Yet the confusing start is compounded throughout the play. Leaving the sense that it doesn’t really know what it is and who it is meant for. The simply spelled-out recycling message feels like it’s pitched at weans – yet the songs are smart spoofs of old ones that will recognised by an older generation. They work well without the prior knowledge of their provenance, but it epitomises the lack of cohesion in the play’s ideal.

Still this is a strong double bill in which the messages don’t get in the way of the entertainment – whether it is that eating well means feeling well or that looking after the environment, locally, globally and humanely, is a worthy aim that comes with pleasing benefits. Just like the plays, really.

Running time 1 hr 15 mins
Run ends Saturday 15 June 2013
Tickets £7 (£5) on the door.
The Granary, 32-34 The Shore, Leith, EH6 6QN. Wed 12 7.30pm Fri 14 2pm, Sat 15 7.30pm.

Citadel Arts Group website: www.citadelartsgroup.co.uk
Leith Festival website: www.leithfestival.com

ENDS

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