A REAL seasonal treat is in store for all the family when the boys and girls of the Performing Arts School Galway take to the stage of the Black Box Theatre, from January 1 to 8 with their panto version of Cinderella.
The show is written especially for the Performing Arts School by Maeve Ingoldsby who has written numerous plays and was a writer for the popular RTÉ soap operas Glenroe and Fair City.
The 80-strong local cast will be joined by a team of professional actors including the internationally acclaimed County Sligo actor, Bob Kelly, and Ros na Run’s Sean O’Meallaigh as Cinderella’s Ugly Sisters. In the glamorous role of the Fairy Godmother is Serena Brabazon whose recent work has included the award winning film TV series The Tudors.
Playing the lead roles of Cinderella and the Prince are Sinead Monaghan and Conor Quinlan.
The show is directed by Jaimie Carswell, founder of Ireland’s Mangiare Theatre Company and a director of the award winning Cirque de Legume. Choreographing the show is Performing Arts School founder Paula McGurrell who will celebrate the 20th birthday of the school in 2011.
Director Jaimie Carswell was born in Belfast, grew up in the USA and trained in physical theatre at the prestigious Jacques Lecoq School in Paris. Galway audiences will have seen him recently in Donal O’Kelly’s Adventures of the Wet Señor which played at the Town Hall in November.
In addition to his work as an actor Jaimie is also a professional double bassist and has played with, among others, Steve Wickham of the Waterboys and Christy Moore.
Carswell also directed PASG’s panto last year The Frog Prince and, during an afternoon chat after rehearsals, he revealed how he first got involved with the company.
“Initially, I taught some workshops at the school,” he says. “I really liked the school and the students liked my style, I think I was bringing in some things from my training that was different to what they were getting from the other teachers and then Paula McGurrell thought it would be interesting to see what I could do with a panto.”
Intriguingly, Carswell admits he had no prior experience of panto before taking on The Frog Prince.
“Not only had I never directed a panto before last year, I hadn’t really ever seen one!” he says. “I took the gig anyway because I thought it would be fun. I have had a lot of training in commedia dell’arte which is where the whole pantomime style came from originally.
“Actually, it was a plus I think not having been steeped in the panto tradition in that I could come at it fresh and keep the conventions of the panto but do them in a stylistically different way that made for something else.
“I think last year people really enjoyed the panto and saw something fresh in it. I thought I would just come to it fresh and see what the script and the characters propose and play games with it from there. I think it’s very important to be playful onstage.
“The cast was great because they were completely open to anything I wanted to do. We stayed with the conventions of the piece but I think we gave it more texture and depth and a more adventurousness stylistically - and that’s what we’re hoping to do again this year.”
So what can audiences look forward to in PASG’s Cinderella?
“We’ve just started rehearsing, so I don’t really know yet what’s going to reveal itself,” Carswell replies, “but the keystone in this year’s show are the Two Ugly Sisters who are played by Bob Kelly and Sean O’Meallaigh. They’re both very good physical and comic actors and their roles are at the centre of the piece all the time. So I think we’re going to push the absurdity of the Ugly Sisters and have a lot of slapstick built around them.”
Another key figure in the show is the Fairy Godmother and Carswell outlines how she will be portrayed.
“We’re doing a bit of a different take on the Fairy Godmother this year in that she’s a kind of roving Fairy Godmother, she literally parachutes in, sort of a Mission Impossible thing. She’s just come from Snow White and now she’s here dealing with Cinderella and then she’s gonna go on and deal with the next fairytale down the line.
“We also made her a bit of a catastrophe, her magic wand is broken, none of her spells work at first – she tries to turn the mice into horses but she turns them into monkeys at first, then eventually she manages to turn them into horses.”
Topical gags are a perennial element of panto so what targets does Cinderella take aim at? “The banks, the banks, and yet again, the banks,” Carswell reveals. “And the IMF. And the weather. They all get it in the neck. That said, those kind of topical references are funny and they’re good to an extent but I prefer not to go too far into those because they’re almost like inside jokes in a way and there’s something exclusive about inside jokes.
“We want to build a complicity with the audience, build this idea that we’re all sharing this experience together and you can only do that to a certain extent through asides and jokes, the kids won’t get that. We’re going to look for different ways to bring the audience in.”
Performances of Cinderella are twice daily at 2.30pm and 7.30pm from January 1 to 7 and on January 8 at 2.30pm only. Tickets are €16 and €14 from Town Hall Theatre on 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie