Review – The Leithtivity

Dec 17 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩ Quick and clever

The Leithtivity cast: Matthew Leonard, Liz Strange, Sarah MacGillivray and Paul Cunningham. Photo © Thom Dibdin

The Leithtivity cast: Matthew Leonard, Liz Strange, Sarah MacGillivray and Paul Cunningham. Photo © Thom Dibdin

The Village Pub
Mon 16 – Wed 18 December 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

Broad swipes and accurate strikes make the Village Pub Theatre’s first venture into pantomime a mixed bag, as it retells the nativity with a scabrous, 20th century Leith twist.

The Leithtivity is a first on several counts, being written by the six VPT writers: James Ley, Catherine Grosvenor, Morna Pearson, Colin Bell, Sophie Good and Louise Knowles, as a collective effort over a month.

All VPT’s previous outings have been the work of an individual. But this doesn’t feel as if it were written by committee – although different writers’ thumbprints are evident in various scenes.

For the most part this swooshes along with its tongue firmly in its cheek. Loudmouthed and heavily pregnant Mary (Sarah McGillivray) and ineffectual Joseph (Matthew Leonard) can’t get a room at the Holy Day Inn because megastar Clifton John (the moustachioed Liz Strange) is switching on the Leith Christmas lights.

The only cab available is the excellent Paul Cunningham’s narrator Donkey, who thankfully happens to be able to speak. He takes them to the Village Pub, where they crash the monthly meeting of the Talking Animals Therapy Group.

The four performers have had a whole day with director Caitlin Skinner to get this into serviceable shape. Taking on a raft of different parts each, they perform with script in hand and blow the consequences for scenes where the double casting means they are having conversations with themselves.

Adds a fizz of energy to the whole thing

And in the cauldron of pantomime, where the fourth wall breaks every second scene, this scratch attitude just adds a fizz of energy to the whole thing.

It is packed with great ideas – too many at times when scenes are still too wordy. But the basic concept of a singing baby being fought over by villainous Clifton John – who sees his hold on Christmas Number Ones being thwarted – and the three “Wise Men” of Wise Men Records: Simon, Sharon and Louis, is genius.

With Mary posting clips on facebook, young Dean (Joseph wanted to call him Che Zeus) is soon trending world wide and it is going to take something powerfully flatulent from the Talking Animals Therapy Group to stop him from ending up in the clutches of the most evil people in pop.

The pantomime rituals are not always as cleanly incorporated into the script as they might be. Which is only to be expected given the short rehearsal time. But the one element in which this really does excel over most professional pantomimes lies in the altering of words for contemporary songs.

Indeed, in 22 different Christmas shows I have seen this year, VPT’s utilisation of Blurred Lines is the only one to have worked. In this case, the lyrics are changed to those for baddie Clifton John’s boo-inducing little number Clubbed Seal. Delightful.

There are depths here, then. Not to mention a brilliant rap about cheese and a surprise ending which pings the finale up several notches. And with entry a snip at £3, this shining invention is easily the best valued panto in town.

Running time 1 hr 20 mins
The Village Pub, 16 South Fort Street, Leith, EH6 4DN
Monday 16 – Wednesday 18 December 2013
Daily 7.30 doors for 8pm start.
Tickets £3 on the door.
Home baking available from 50p.
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