Posts Tagged ‘Inverness’

Mini-review – Sleeping Beauty – Empire Theatre, Eden Court, Inverness

January 1, 2014

For those of you who know anything about my personal life, it’s no surprise that I went to Inverness over Christmas. Given the season, I was interested in seeing what was on at the Eden Court. To my pleasure, it was Sleeping Beauty, a panto I had never seen before. Hurray! Two tickets were secured for the Christmas Eve matinee (for under 15 quid each), and we were in!

Of all of the pantos I’ve seen this year, none of them compared to the glamor and glitz of the Eden Court’s show. The good fairy seemed sequined from head to toe in silk chiffon, the dame (Nanny Knot) must have had eight costume changes, all of which were fully developed and quite funny (the first one tartan with poofy sleeves shaped like bagpipes – hysterical!), and the sets may have had bright colors but they were very professionally done. My understanding is that Scotland goes for a lot more social and cultural investment than England does, and in this production you could see the money.

I didn’t have a feeling of the history of this show, like I do for Hackney Empire and for Greenwich, for the evolution of recurring cast members (and dancers growing up in the show) and the expectations of the audience, so my expectations may not have been set properly. But I was shocked at how unresponsive the audience was, at how hard it was to get them do callbacks, and how hard the cast was having to work to get barely a peep out of them. Now, mind, the (Inverness) Empire theater is a barn, and the first five rows of the stalls seemed to be exclusively filled with people of the silver haired persuation, but, come on, boys and girls, let’s make an effort!

As we are familiar with Cinderella, I’ll give you the panto add-ons: a goofy father who needs to hire a nanny to help him raise his daughter, Belle; an extraordinarily good looking Prince Valiant (a booted Leading Boy whose ponytail far outshone Belle’s hair and whose tunic was shorter than every other male member of the court); and a jester, Muddles, who is building a time machine that has a curious resemblance to a certain familiar telephone box. Extra special fun was brought by the inclusion of very young dancing girl fairies (for the “gift” scene), including one who looked to be about six and yet stole the show when she gave Belle her curse-breaking blessing; and the completely unnecessary scene in which Muddles, Valiant, and Nanny Box time travel to the swinging sixties in an attempt to wind up at the palace just when Belle needs to be kissed or die. (It was a great excuse to throw in a song from Hairspray.)

I have to say, though, I was feeling a bit panto-ed out the day I went. I adored the lead fairy’s melodious Scottish accent, the references to local business and Scottish politics, and I may be scarred for life by the cream pie scene that featured “sausages standing up” (Nanny: “You’re making your own jokes to this, aren’t you?”). There was a great transformation scene in which the scenery turned into a dragon (which the prince had to fight). But with the dead audience, no costumes in the world could plug the gap. This panto had all of the ingredients it needed to be a good time, but it just didn’t seem to be very appreciated, and that took away the fun for me. I hope maybe the day I went just represented a certain matinee group and not the general levels of enthusiasm, because if this is really how Inverness feels about panto, I’d pack it in and give them A Christmas Carol next year instead. Bah, humbug, indeed!

(This review is for the 1PM performance that took place December 24th, 2013. It continues through January 5th. Props to the guy who got on stage for the “Dad dancing” sequence – if only the rest of the audience had been that fun!)

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The hunt for Nessie: Inverness Tour, 2010

November 4, 2010

Loch Ness, Inverness: what could these two things possibly have in common with each other, besides being Scottish? Well, once again, I have to play the American card here. Much like it never occured to me that the town “Cambridge” might actually be named after the location of a river (Cam doesn’t seem the least bit like a river name, they should all have multiple syllables) and the “bridge” that crossed it, the thought that “Lake” Ness and the town Inverness actually shared a Ness in common had passed me by.

But now I know: “inver” is “mouth of” and Ness is a river that runs from … get this … the LAKE to the TOWN. Loch Ness, River Ness, Inverness. Genius! And of course, it was natural that there would also be a Ness Cafe. Inverness: Ness Cafe We shall save any discussion of Bens, Firths, Forths, or even Thirds for a later trip to Scotland.

So: off to Inverness I went last weekend; what could be more natural that to take a trip to the Loch and look for its monster, Nessie? Fortunately, the local government was more than encouraging; my first tip that there might be monsters afoot was a sign across the street from Inverness Castle.

Wow, it wasn’t far away at all, just up the river a short bit and then BOOM! Crazy monster time! But given the rains (and the fact that what with it being autumn a lot of things had already shut down), we were obliged to take a bus on our Search for the Great Green Beastie. 22 a head didn’t seem bad, really, for a coach ride there, a boat ride on the lake, entrance to a castle, and return coach … if we weren’t eaten first.Bus to Loch Ness

Our guide whiled away the time telling us stories about the local cows, Madonna, and ORIGINS OF THE MONSTER. Apparently in the 500s St. Columba came by the lake, had a chat with the aquatic monster that was eating local fishermen, and worked out a “live and let live” deal. There have been no recorded Nessie devourings since then. Still, a sight of this model made me think that perhaps we were all being a bit sanguine about our chances of surviving a close encounter with a likely prehistoric carnivore:

Approximately half an hour later, we were fully up to date on the origin of the Caledonian canal system but woefully under prepared for our encounter with the great unknown. We disembarked from the bus and walked underneath the highway to the tiny boat that awaited us. Was this little craft to be our only protection against the great beast of the Loch? While the hills were covered with gorgeous autumn color and the lake seemingly smooth as glass, I wasn’t going to let all of this distract me from the danger of What Lies Beneath. Loch Ness on a windless day

Our guide, however, was full of distractions, telling us Loch trivia such as 1) the water in the lake is brown from peat and has very low visibility 2) the lake is near dead, with very little life in it 3) the entire world’s population could fit in the loch if it were drained (not sure if this is stacked like cordwood or standing on each other’s shoulders) 4) a possible origin for the name Ness was the phrase “Tha loch nis ann” (There is a loch there now), which I found unconvincing. Time passed sweetly as we cruised to the castle and I saw nary a ripple on the water, which made me even more suspicious, though we did land without incident.Urquhardt castle from Loch Ness

I clambered high and low over the castle, looking for signs beneath the glassy surface of the water. While I managed to find to top of the parapet and thet old dungeon, I saw no sign of anything in the water at all. How could this be? Does Nessie prefer colder days? Is he/she partial to darkness? Or, perhaps, did the presence of the wildlife I did see explain it? Could the rippling creature seen just below the surface actually be – coordinated flocks of swimming pheasants?Pheasants, Urquhart Castle

Somewhat disappointed, I went back through the gift shop, purchased some nettle tea and a souvenir necklace, then headed to the bus. As the twilight headed toward gloom, our bus slowed down … and I snapped this shot, surely proof that I had a close encounter with Nessie!Blurry photo of Nessie

Overall I think my trip to Loch Ness was a real success, as was the trip to Inverness. Walking along the banks of the river and the Caledonian Canal, riding the Strathspey Railway, eating good food and enjoying good company … but best of all …. seeing a monster!