With many pantomimes happy to recycle well-known characters and situations, giving them a local twist and references, it’s a canny move on the part of Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre to adapt a successful ITV programme for a local audience in the shape of Corstorphine Road Nativity, a well known area of the city.
Originally based in the generic (and decidedly English) Flint Street, the play opens in Corstorphine Road Primary School as a class of schoolchildren prepare to perform the Christmas Nativity in front of their assembled parents.
Soon, backstabbing, jealousy and love triangles rear the heads as the kids try to remember their lines and navigate the scenery, all the while directed by the unseen Miss Mochrie and watched by their families.
What makes this particular production different is that all the children are played by adults, with Robin Hood’s Gordon Kennedy taking on the role of narrator, Ballamory’s Juliet Wilson Nimmo appearing as Mary and Scottish stage regulars Jimmy Chisholm and Steven McNicoll trying to out-act everyone as Innkeepers.
Set against the backdrop of an oversized classroom, Tim Firth’s script has been given a Scottish makeover with references to the ongoing Tramworks (it now seems to be law to mention Trams in any Edinburgh play) thrown in for good measure alongside the local accents.
With the adults-as-kids premise is Corstorphine Road’s unique selling point, the actors give it their all, Nimmo and McNicoll in particular given the most interesting material to work with, while some of the other cast members are sidelined.
Sarah Crowe makes a valiant stab at the Scottish accent, her character a spiteful little madam whose behaviour is explained somewhat in the final fifteen minutes as we are introduced to her mother. For this the set is realigned and we see the play from the point of view of the parents, played by the same actors.
This segment is by far the weakest of the play, the conclusion confused thanks to the sheer speed at which each family’s story is wrapped up, though whether the problem comes from the direction or the script is unclear.
For those looking for an alternative to the pantomimes on offer elsewhere this season, Corstorphine Road fits the bill nicely, Steven McNicoll’s performance in particular proving once again that he’s not only one of the brightest stars above Bethlehem but in Scottish theatre today.