Usually a panto has a pair of comics who are a handful to deal with. But in the case of the up-coming Watergate Productions panto there are a rambunctious seven.
Fortunately, they have met their match in Nicola Brennan, who will be playing the role of Snow White in the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves from January 8-15.
And this despite it being her first time to ever set foot on a panto stage.
She’s no stranger to the theatre, as chairwoman of the Kilkenny Musical Society and as part of KATS theatre group, but a panto is ... different.
It does draw on her musical experience, however, of which she has plenty.
“My thing would be more singing than acting,” Nicola says. Having begun her training in her student days as a member of the choir in Presentation Secondary School – where she is now a teacher – she went on to win the local Thomas Moore Young Singers Competition. The prize was a bursary for a year’s voice training, and she went off to Cork for college.
Now, she is getting into the acting side of things. And what better way to start than with the Watergate pantomime?
“With panto it’s very over-the-top, which in many ways is kind of easier for someone who’s trying to find their feet in acting because you just go for it – whereas if it’s something that’s far more heart-wrenching it would be more difficult,” she says.
It’s also true that forgetting a line in a panto can add to the humour, which isn’t exactly the case in a serious drama.
“The same pressure isn’t there and people almost expect it in a panto,” Nicola says.
So how is she finding it so far?
“It’s great fun. It’s totally different to anything I’ve ever done before,” she says. “The rehearsals are so much fun and everyone is really enjoying it.”
“Musicals often get a bad rap from people, but they are huge productions to put on. Panto, while obviously it’s great fun, you do want to a good job of it as well. So there are the two sides to it: There’s the fun side but then there’s the side where we want people to enjoy themselves, and it won’t be cringe-y but more fun. There is a thin line, and you just need to get the right balance.”
“Don O’Connor really has the right balance there,” she says of the scriptwriter, who is also directing the show. “The first night that we read through the script, none of us had read it and we were genuinely laughing at the lines. And when it’s delivered properly, then it will be even better.”
And so back to the matter of those seven dwarfs, who are being played by none other than Fergus Heffernan, David Heffernan, Fergal Miller, Liam Conway, John Whitely, John Kelly and Alan Hayes.
“For a lot of the scenes it’s just me and them, so it’s me sharing the stage with seven males,” she laughs. “And grown men at that! The height thing will confuse a few people, all right – but it works, it’s very funny. It is what it is, and we just really play it up.”
It sounds like this newcomer is hooked on panto, then.
“I suppose I’ll have to see what it’s like the week of the show,” she laughs. “But it’s definitely something I could see myself doing again, because the fact that it’s not as serious is important, especially around this time of year when there’s a million and one things on as well.”
“What I really like in Kilkenny about the people who get involved in the panto is the fact that you have people involved in very serious theatre as well, and it’s nice that there isn’t that notion that it’s only a musical or it’s only a panto, and that people wouldn’t go near this sort of thing. It’s lovely that we have so many people who will do basically any sort of drama that gets them on stage, because they just love it. It’s lovely that there is that mix of people there.”
“I really thought the script was great,” she says, “so hopefully we’ll do it justice.”
The panto ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ will be staged in the Watergate Theatre from January 8-15, with matinees on both Sundays and shows at 8pm all other dates. Tickets are €16/€12, or €10 for the Sunday and Monday performances; booking is on 056 7761674 or www.watergatetheatre.com.