Matthew Lenton, artistic director of Vanishing Point, explains why he moonlights as a children’s entertainer every December.
'I’m writing and directing Cinderella at Carnegie Hall in Dunfermline this year. I’ve directed their annual panto for the past two years, but this is the first time I’ve written it too. The stage at Carnegie Hall is huge, so I felt we needed a script written especially for that space. They’ve been raising their game over the past few years, working with some excellent actors and really interesting designers, and I think it’s a shame that often pantomimes outside the cities get a little bit trampled by the bigger shows at the Edinburgh or Glasgow King’s Theatres. Audiences in Dunfermline are a good, vocal, expressive crowd: they let you know what they do and don’t like, and I’ve learned a lot from them. They love to be able to shout out to the characters, and so I’m going to keep the magical, very visual storytelling style we’ve evolved, but bring a lot more interaction in. It’s definitely not going to be one of those polite Christmas shows where the children aren’t quite sure whether they’re allowed to say anything, because absolutely anything goes.
‘There are a lot of elements I think you need for a good pantomime. Aly Macrae (who composed the music for Vanishing Point’s recent Fringe hit Subway) has written a score full of magical songs, which add an element of that big song & dance number of grand spectacle: all the magic people might associate with the better-known Disney version, and maybe a little bit of the cheese, as well. Then there’s all the traditional cheering and booing, and the bad jokes, but at the same time it’s got some of the darkness of the Brothers Grimm original, because I like that. Children should always believe that there just might be a monster under the bed or in the wardrobe, and I think the Christmas show does that. It’s got the scary bits, but it’s also got real moments of wonder and excitement and charm.’
Cinderella, Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline. Fri 7–Sun 23 Dec. www.carnegiehall.org.uk