FringeReview Scotland 2023
The Southside’s Group’s Christmas Tales cover extracts from eight sources. It starts with Once Upon a Time from all our cast before they launch into The Grinch who Stole Christmas, The Little Matchgirl, The Selfish Giant, The Gift of the Magi, The Snow Queen, The Night Before Christmas, A Christmas Carol and finally Christmas is Coming.
This is a lovely night of welcome magic which lights up the cold winter evening. It began with each of the cast members getting their opportunity to be onstage and speak, which is where their personalities shine. Whether it is someone who feels their spot was taken by another or the enthusiasm of one more who wants to do their best or it is just the wondrous laid-back pronouncement in comparison to their over enthusiastic comrades, this is ensemble in reality.
It led to a fantastic opening, and you will travel far and wide to get a better panto villain than our Grinch. Seuss always knew how to craft a tale and here it is given gusto and panto villainy with tremendous verve and vitality.
There were then a few smaller scenes which were given time and focus as The Little Matchgirl gave way to the Selfish Giant – another memorable performance – and then The Gift of the Magi. It was just over a year since being in the same venue for the Snow Queen so seeing a section again was welcome, though acoustics with background music for single voices could be a little challenging.
It was then time for the Night Before Christmas and ne’er was a mouse so well described. But by the time we got to A Christmas Carol, we got back to the inventive nature of Southside which brought them such praise back in the year at the Tramway in Another Nice Mess. It was a cut price Carol as we only got one ghost but once more it was the performers who shone, and they got a riotous applause at the end of this more extensive section. It set everything up wonderfully well for Christmas is Coming and the finale.
It’s been quite a year for this group. They have risen to the targets and tasks set and can go off on what is their very first tour round local libraries with plenty of confidence. During the year the performance at the Tramway was a highlight and what we got here was a short version of the equivalent of keeping busy. There was no access to the kinds of theatrical magic that a theatre could give but the performances kept the standards high enough that 2024 can be looked forward to with some anticipation. Whatever the plans are, they ought to be squarely focused on commanding a stage once more and getting back into the minds of those who support such enterprise – our hearts are already captured.