IT WOULD have been quite prophetic had Friday and Saturday’s snow forced the cancellation of Splinters Youth Theatre’s annual Christmas pantomime such were their weather woes leading up to the event this year.
Key personnel stuck due to ferry delays, school in-service date changes and some charitable work along the way meant a much tighter rehearsal schedule for the boys and girls of the Splinters family who this year have adopted some very useful “siblings” in the shape of the invaluable John Haswell, James Watt and Matthew Lawrence.
In the event the turbulent clangings and bangings on the Brae Hall roof on Friday evening – although dramatic for those whose concentration momentarily wandered to thoughts of the square mouth shovel in the boot of their car – did not quite match the onstage frenzy of the senior characters in this year’s production of Snow White, but it was a close run thing.
Among the expectant audience were grannies from Urafirth in the north to Sandwick in the south, along with aunts from Yell and uncles from Scalloway with of course a fair smattering of the Delting population. There were only a very few empty seats despite the weather.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is of course a very traditional panto. Writer Mike Newbold surely has an unfair advantage as he contemplates the annual script. The wide array of talents in the field of song, dance and comic acting at hand must be a great mechanism to unblock the flowing pen as he sits down to carefully craft a stage show which transfers the genuine excitement and exhilaration the 30 or so cast whose ages range from eight to 18 bring to rehearsals.
Every pantomime needs a strong dame and Duncan Stove as Gypsy Rose – along with the ever hilarious and immaculately timed Barry Cranie as son Jack – got us off to a very brisk start as they wove among the audience selling – not so successfully – pegs and other gypsy wares. They established a very positive relationship with the audience and each time they were afoot there was always a sense of comic anticipation.
Then wicked Queen Maria Irvine stole the stage as a true vamp and her Mama Mia, the first of three ABBA pieces worked into the evening’s entertainment, was a delight along with her frequent cackling taken straight from Cruella De Ville’s lips!
It isn’t easy to act the part of a mirror but Drew Manson did just that – with no hand movements or appreciable stage direction he managed to convey exactly his contempt of the Queen and her maid with some expressive facial twitches and voice inflexions.
The trees in the forest, where Snow White is to meet her fate at the hands of the cowardly yet humane woodcutters, performed an even taller task as a very well rehearsed unit.
They were brought to life by the frenetic Lizzie Ward-Smith as Mad Alice Queen of the Forest who conveyed all the menace, amusement and worry that was required – we even saw a range of personalities.
Stephanie Thompson, who did think it was quite unusual to be living in a house with seven small bachelors, sensitively played the role of Snow White. The bachelors, who were almost all female and did an excellent job of avoiding being upstaged or masked, had a dame in the form of Craig Odie who did a very fair take of Corporal Jones when his panic got the better of him as Snow White lay unconscious after biting the apple from the Wicked Queen.
The Dwarves always seemed to be thinking of their next meal and were suspiciously keen to visit Brae’s latest eatery Frankie’s Chippy – free product placement is priceless!
Some of Splinters’ youngest members were cast as the forest animals with Miss Fashionable – head of the forest – the expressive Loris MacDonald keeping her brood in check. Even though there were a few lines for each and they were spread out over a few scenes there was no need at all for prompting. Even more encouraging was the way in which the animals showed total concentration and reaction to the dialogue and plot twists woven by the more senior members on stage while they hid beneath the trees.
Splinters continue to be a very self sufficient group – members leave but they do not depart forever. Rebecca Cheriyan was backstage helping and four old hands, for whom this panto brings down the curtain on their onstage involvement for the time being, will be assisting in some way shape or form with forthcoming productions scheduled for the Shetland County Drama Festival in March 2009.
Over £2,100 was raised over the two performances which is ploughed straight back into the development of the group as it seeks to bring the magic of theatre to a wider audience and a larger group of youngsters.
Well done to Di, Mike, the cast and supporting crew and not least the brave and well travelled audiences!