Strange Town are an Edinburgh-based theatre company that specialise in offering opportunities in the arts to young people aged from 5 to 25. On Air is written by Bradley Lewis Cannon, a former member of Strange Town and now one of its directors, and has been partly devised by the 12 to 16 year old group. It’s clear that they’ve had great fun improvising around the theme: Jeremy Kyle smooshed together with a cast of fairy tale characters leading to expectedly narcissistic results.
Kerry Minger (Finlay Gilzean) is this chat show’s host, though it’s clear early on that the Director (Christy Gill) is calling all the shots and won’t tolerate other (better) ideas. Sleeping Beauty (Layla Crombie-Surgeon), Maleficent (a haughty Cora McNulty) and King Stefan (Andrew Dickie) are first up on Mr Minger’s couch. But when the real story isn’t yielding sufficient drama, a plot twist is forced on them – maybe King Stefan drugged Beauty and that’s why she’s lost 100 years of her life.
And so it goes, with Cinderella (Iris Muir) snubbing Prince Charming (the marvellously versatile Gilzean) for Shrek (a self-effacing Cameron DuPuy) while Charming retaliates with the revelation that he’s been cavorting with Princess Fiona (a cheeky Jason Sparrow). Later, the couch is replaced with the Come Dine With Me table and a new cast of characters battle it out to win the prize.
Cannon and the company don’t seem to have a high opinion of the contemporary audience’s appetite for trash, torment and titillation, but they successfully weave some interesting thoughts in amongst the satire. An accusation of misogyny is flung at the Director early doors, though in a nice twist, the Runner (Emma Makin) morphs into something just as domineering when she gains control the director’s chair.
This is a boisterous production with a big cast, colourful costumes, a tidy lighting plot and a helter-skelter pace. By and large, the cast attack the script with vigour and verve. Some more heartfelt moments – Makin and Jamie Duffin puzzling over how they can save the day – are scattered in amongst the high energy frolics which suggests that there’s still a place for decency, honesty and friendship amidst the synthetic celluloid.
It’s brilliant to see a youth group taking over Traverse 2 and it sets a strong precedent for the two other shows Strange Town have on offer over the weekend. Tickets for all three shows will even net you you a discount. What more could you wish for?