Review – Leitherella

Dec 21 2012 | By More

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Leitherella Panto Finale Photo © David Morrison <a href=

Leitherella Panto Finale Photo © David Morrison

South Leith Parish Church Halls
Review by Thom Dibdin

Fun and frivolous – if not exactly fleeting – Leitherella is a community pantomime with real heart.

What the Leith Community Theatre lack in pace – a little too much of the almost three hour running time is spent between scenes – they make up for with invention in the direction, pizzaz on the stage and a local script that plants the action firmly in Leith.

Here in the village of Stoneybroke – lost in the folds of the map as Kerry McLeod’s cocky Dandini tells Hayley Dunn’s strutting Prince Charming – live the Harduppes of Harduppe Hall, together with their know-it-all servant Buttons.

Brian Davidson is the put-upon Baron, with Marina Cockburn as his second wife. Cockburn is nicely vicious but with an audience itching for someone to boo, she could play to her character even more than she does. Of course her ugly daughters, Whitney and Britney, are always on hand to help on that front.

And as Buttons, Andrea Keir paces the stage as if it were her own. The role of panto pal looks to be one of the easiest to do, but in reality it is the trickiest to get right. Keir is as fearless in her performance as any professional and, while a movement coach might give her a few notes, she knows all the ins and outs of working an audience.

It is this confidence, a confidence which runs through nearly all the production, that makes Keir’s Buttons come across as well as he does. There is no doubt as to his love for Hannah Mackenzie’s charming Leitherella, of his disappointment when she runs off with the Prince.

Terrifying the older male members of the audience with a lascivious eye
Leitherella Panto - The Uglies try on the slipper. Photo © David Morrison <a href=

Leitherella Panto – The Uglies try on the slipper. Photo © David Morrison

As the Uglies, Scott Kay as Whitney is a true dame, raw of throat and terrifying the older male members of the audience with a lascivious eye. The brave Claire Murray takes on the role of the other Ugly, Britney, and matches Kay, innuendo for innuendo and flounce for flounce.

The gender-swapping of the roles might not be in the traditionally prescribed manner – but there are moments of pure panto class. Not all of them planned, it must be said. In the final scene, when their dresses inadvertently start shedding the christmas baubles with which they are festooned, Kay’s “Don’t say it!” as he fixes a cast member with a piercing glance renders any reference to the dropping of balls redundant.

The script, by Peter Long and Keith Rawnsley, has benefited from being edited by Hayley Dunn, Suzanne Tulloch and Tony Delicata. Which means that the local references never feel shoehorned in. And there are a few nicely modern notes as well. Not least the sudden bursting into a Gangnam routine at the end of the ballroom scene.

Another benefit of the script is the size of its cast list. Beside the usual characters there are two extra pairings.

In order to find out why the Baroness is being so hard on Leitherella, the Baron has employed the services of the dim duo of Gord  and Bennet – Aileen Laverty and Des Linton. While Prince Charming has to report of his searches for a bride to King Charles and Queen Camilla – Mark Clark and Susan Robinson.

Leitherella has arrived - Photo © David Morrison <a href=

Leitherella has arrived – Photo © David Morrison

It is not always fantastic, however. The overlong and under-funny scary ghost scene drags. It is too complicated and full of little things which need to be done at speed, with a slick technical presentation and great sight-lines.

On the other hand, you can tell a lot about a Cinderella from the quality of its transformation scene – that magical moment when the little ash girl becomes a beautifully-garbed princess and her pumpkin turns into a coach.

Leith Community Theatre’s transformation is an utterly brilliant one. It’s not slick and it is completely transparent -yet it is an enthralling and magical moment in the show.

In a company which is blessed with many female performers, it is unclear whether the role of Principal Boy is taken by Buttons, Charming or Dandini. All three actresses could be regarded as such, but in the end Hayley Dunn ensures that tradition will out and put in the most appropriate performance – despite a surprising lack of thigh-slapping.

All told, and with a bright performance from Esme Manclark as the suitably rhyming Fairy Godmother, a sparkling little panto which fills the South Leith Parish Church Halls with the sound of jollity.

Run ends Saturday

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