Dec 1 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆   High Spirited

Inverleith St Serf’s Church Centre: Wed 30 – Sat 3 Dec 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

St Serf’s Players continue their successful panto collaboration with the Trinity Theatre Company for a Cinderella at Inverleith St Serf’s Church Hall that is gutsy and brisk in all the right ways.

The coming together of the two companies feels as good a fit Cinderella’s glass slipper, with the young Trinity company providing the background narrative and big song-and-dance routines, while St Serf’s get on with the panto patter.

Sheila Mann (Fairy Godmother) Rona Arnott (Buttons) and Fredericka Morrison (Cinderella). Pic Trevor Garlick

Director Jack Paterson has gone with Ben Crocker’s latest off-the-shelf Cinderella script for his basis. It feels a bit more up-to-date than some and gives Fredericka Morrison plenty of scope to play with Cinderella’s agency in the story.

There are no worries that this departs too far from the traditional, either. Shiela Mann’s rather matronly Fairy Godmother speaks in rhyme (at least in the magic parts); Graeme Lobban (Beryl) and Lee Shedden (Cheryl) get to play dame as the Uglies; and there is a proper transformation scene.

The plot is driven by Moira Macdonald as pompous Dandini and Alison Carcas as a nicely deferential Prince Charming. Indolent Dandini having having failed to deliver the invites to the Royal ball, Charming suggests they swap outfits so he can deliver the invites himself as he fancies a go at being a commoner

principal boy

It is always good to see a principal boy on stage – even better to get two. Although Paterson misses a trick here by failing to get either to do an old-fashioned thigh-slap as they get on their way. It’s one of the most gently hilarious elements of traditional panto and easy to pull off.

However, the focus on the swap makes for a more interesting relationship with Cinders – they both meet her and fall in love. Then of course Rona Arnott’s tongue-tied Buttons is also in love with her. Tongue tied when it comes to declaring his love that is – loquacious at all other times.

Rona Arnott (Buttons). Alison Carcas (Charming) and Fredericka Morrison (Cinderella). Pic Trevor Garlick

The key to the success of much of the audience interaction is having a strong performer as Buttons. If it’s quiet, Buttons is there to hype it up. Too rowdy, and Buttons can reign it in. Arnott is a reasonably strong Buttons but it is one of the script’s failings that she does not develop her audience relationship more – and earlier.

With a completely up-for-it and packed opening night house, Arnott had plenty to play with but, if Buttons had already made pals with the audience, she would have been in a much better place keep the rowdiness in check. Mind you, some of the audience back-chat was quality stuff.

Not that there is any lack of audience participation in the script. The Uglies get to run around the audience giving out sweeties – a nicely staged replacement for the sadly defunct Sweetie Shower. And there is the obligatory song sheet at the end – nicely turned by Arnott.

wardrobe changes

If the Uglies get plenty of stage time, including a lot of tricky but well-delivered business, and a reasonable number of wardrobe changes (well played Alison McCallum) there is a lot less for Glen Sutherland to do in the wicked step mother role. Despite some splendid sound effects from Jack Paterson, Sutherland’s Baroness never really gets to earn her boo’s.

Graeme Lobban (Beryl), Moira MAcdonald (Dandini) and Lee Shedden (Cheryl). Pic Trevor Garlick

The role of Baron is problematic as well. The script gives Malcolm McFadyen little to play with and, despite his protestations at the bullying by the Uglies and the Baroness, his feebleness means that it never really feels that the character is on Cinderella’s side.

As for the Trinity theatre company, they are a bundle fun to watch on stage. Their director Cherie Brown has got them firing on all cylinders, with the basic philosophy that they get out on stage and do lots of moves and songs. If the moves aren’t always in sync or the notes all the same, that will come later.

a joy to watch

The company really is a joy to watch. The song choice is often dubious – quite how Mud’s Tiger Feet fits in is unclear. No matter. They give it laldy with the oomph button turned up to 11 and don’t let up for 90 seconds – two minutes tops. As a consequence, while the show is song heavy, none outstay their welcome.

The back-stage team under stage manager Trevor Garlick should also get huge props for the smooth running of the whole show. The sound is a bit boomy, but always clear and never drowns out the performers. Keith Grady’s lighting is never intrusive and the stage design ensures that we always know where we are.

All told, a hugely enjoyable amateur pantomime, that really feels a part of the local community. Which is just as it should be.

Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes (including one interval)
Inverleith St Serf’s Church Centre, 1a Clark Road, EH5 3BD.
Wed 30 Nov – Sat 3 Dec.
Wed – Fri: 7.30pm; Sat: 2pm & 6.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Some of the young singers and dancers from the Trinity Theatre Company. Pic: Trevor Garlick


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