Glass Slippers And Silver Bullets

Sat 5th – Wed 16th August 2017

reviews

Abi Newton

at 12:29 on 11th Aug 2017

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A potentially alcoholic and comically incompetent Fairy Godmother, a talking pumpkin-monster with a bone to pick about objectification culture, and a werewolf Cinderella who howls at the moon in despair of her inability to romance a vampiric Prince Charming. It’s safe to say this is not your usual pantomime.

‘Glass Slippers and Silver Bullets’ is a PBH Free Fringe family pantomime which blends traditional fairytale and horror tropes, turns them on their head, and changes them into a frog for good measure. It’s the show for kids and grown-ups who want answers to the questions behind the magic, like why does no one care about the gardener whose prize vegetables are stolen to be turned into enchanted carriages, or are glass slippers and balls symbolic of the decadent excess of the aristocratic ruling classes? The writing is clever and gently subversive, which is part of what makes the production so successful in its wide-reaching tone. There’s songs enough to satisfy little ones, with lyrics loaded with innuendos and wordplay to occupy parents and older siblings – never before have I considered the Cinderella-based puns to be had with Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’.

Hispaniola, the venue of the performance, is probably the coolest space to perform in all of Edinburgh – its main room hosts a treasure trove of pirate memorabilia, complete with pistols, barrels of rum, and even a skeleton in a cage suspended from the ceiling with more hanging from the walls. It’s a random but oddly perfect setting for this tongue-in-cheek reimagining of the pantomime genre – and this is a show unafraid to shake up panto conventions. Gone are the ‘He’s Behind Yous’ and ‘Oh No You Didn’ts’, replaced with much lighter audience participation. This did take something away from the childlike fun of being involved in a show, but I admit I was partly grateful for this as I have reached the age where the thought of speaking loudly in public is both mortifying and exhausting depending on the situation. The show begins with the Fairy Godmother, reappearing to Cinderella after almost two decades of neglect, mistaking the middle-aged dads in the audience for her younger, more feminine, unstubbled charge.

Surprisingly, this set the trend for the motif of gender-bending recurrent throughout the show. Half the cast were in drag for the entirety of the performance, and even the transformed pumpkin managed to get in on the action by declaring itself “a pumpkin stuck in a carriage’s body.” The danger with this is it strayed just a little too close to stereotyping for an audience which is becoming increasingly educated on and sympathetic to transgender issues in society. Even if its intentions are completely free of malicious thought, there is a risk of this being construed as harmful or offensive. To be fair to the show, panto has a long tradition of playing with gender – drag has been an integral part of pantomimes for decades, and Boris and Rufus, the two ugly stepsisters, steal the show with their loud makeup and hyperbolic fawning over the alluringly undead Prince Charming.

Ultimately, this is a charming family production which managed to be energetic with a small audience, but which deserves much more attention. The crew should be mindful however of the delicate ground they are treading on in terms of gender-based jokes. It would be a shame if it became a touch too brash in its endeavour to create a pantomime for the modern age, as this is a hidden gem for families looking to enjoy something together.

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Katherine Knight

at 12:31 on 11th Aug 2017

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Horror and pantomime, both in a children’s performance? It’s an ambitious delivering, and you might have reservations – too gimmicky? An expletive-ridden mature performance in disguise? Family theatre is often an incredibly overlooked genre at the Fringe, but if one thing is clear after watching this performance, it’s this: this is where most of the heart is.

This is the Cinderella story but not as you know it – a cry of “Oh, you’re social services!” from Cinders when the fairy godmother appears says what most of us have secretly been thinking. The ending isn’t what you’d expect, either; and although the show’s performers claim that there isn’t really a moral, there’s still certainly a message which the audience can take away, even if it isn’t your standard fairy tale ending.

The jokes are standard fare, but by no means terrible – unless you mean awful in the groan-inducing way which in this case shouldn’t be an insult. There are modern references and running jokes. And yes, there are ones for the adults as well, although these could cause a bit of a wince (or an awkward explanation to the kids afterwards). But energy levels are kept high throughout, and there isn’t one moment where the momentum drops – the whole thing keeps rolling on at a remarkable pace.

This isn’t a high budget production, but it’s clear a lot of work has gone into making this performance come together. The best example is when a pumpkin carriage arrives in (slightly clunky) fashion as a huge painted pumpkin attached to the side of a Tesco trolley. (It’s sentient, too – a face pokes through a carefully cut hole and watches the following scene with a variety of amusing facial expressions). It’s not the most glamorous form of transport, and it does knock the set on its way past, but it’s obvious just how much thought and love has gone into it as a set piece, and it ends up being extremely effective. There are similar problem-solving enterprises which are not refined, but you have to admire the ingenuity – glass slippers, midnight transformations, and a final foe are all present and accounted for.

There are some slightly odd moments – a couple of songs which, while striving for a modern edge, could do with a backing track to be less out of place. But what really strikes the audience is the energy of the actors taking part. All your traditional characters are there – the fairy godmother, the ugly stepsisters – along with some characters you wouldn’t expect to see in your Christmas viewing, including a furry friend and a particularly shifty Prince Charming. The actress playing the Fairy Godmother was particularly engaging, setting the show off to an engaging start; and special mention must go to the actor playing the aforementioned prince, whose facial expressions, suspicious body language and slightly stereotypical Transylvanian accent almost steal the show on many an occasion. Given its early time slot, it may be easy to overlook, but at the end of the day pantomime should be entertaining and this one is.

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