Gosh, golly and crypes, Santa Claus has been kidnapped and not only have his dastardly kidnappers killed Scrappy Doo, but they have cancelled Christmas too!
Mind you, Scrappy wouldn’t shut up, Mrs Claus was on the point of losing it thanks to his incessant dribble of stories, and he got what was coming to him when Santa consigned him to the naughty step. But still, death-by-pyro was going over the top.
Scooby Panto does – occasionally – dip its toe into the warm waters of pantomime, but thanks to those meddling kids up at the EUTC it is mostly an explosive and hilarious take on the genre of kids’ animated detective fiction.
Purposefully puerile and laced with an equal proportion of expletives and explosives, Craig Methven and Callum O’Dwyer’s script plays with all the unsaid subtexts and unmentionable innuendo of the original cartoon. And with its over-14 rating somewhat on the liberal side, there is not much that is subtle about it, either.
Mind you there never was anything subtle about a talking dog who hangs out with a died-in-the-wool stoner. Eric Geistfeld as Scooby and Isobel Moulder as Shaggy live up to the cliché with ease as they set out to put the old Gang back together to solve one last case.
Straight-laced jock, Fred (the hyperactive Joe Christie), has taken on a new persona as a private dick – with a penchant for musical theatre and a new sidekick, the ultra-ordinary Jeff (beautifully underplayed by Adam Butler).
Daphne, (Rory Kelly hot from his turn as a wombat-faced goblin in Goblin’s Story), is living it up as a drag-diva. There is nothing double about Kelly’s entendres as he makes Daphne’s moisture-inducing intentions towards other members of the gang very clear indeed.
Emily Deans’ nerdy Velma has exactly the right level of repressed sex-appeal. She has moved on to head-up a top secret section of NASA. Why Shaggy is blind to her own infatuation is the biggest mystery of all.
In many ways this could have been pulled straight out of the pages of the Art of Course Acting. Doors either stick when being opened – or open, unbidden, mid scene. The scenery wobbles more than in an early episode of Star Trek. Gaps in that scenery reveal members of the technical team plying their trade back stage. And scene changes are a significant few seconds shorter than the actual time it takes the technical team to come out and replace the pyro effects.
A thoroughly scurrilous antidote
But that just adds to the crazy charm of the piece. It it were technically slick, you wouldn’t see the cast’s brilliant ability to take on any unscripted problem without a qualm. It fits with the slightly improvised nature of the script and shows just how good they are.
There’s Shaggy with a constant eye out for those pesky pyro pots, which keep on getting caught underfoot. Isobel Moulder calmly makes sure things keep going – without ever drawing attention to it. And Josie Miller as Plotty the Elf, rides smoothly through the vagaries of the set design.
And so what if you can see the techies every now and again: those effects are superb. Clearly meant for use in rather larger spaces, they go off with enough power to singe the eyebrows of the back row.
This being a Scooby Doo parody, the stereotypes are in evidence. Of course there has to be a Creepy Janitor – step forward Esmond Sage who appears not to have washed his lanky hair for a month in honour of the role. Although one hopes that the Method has not gone any further as his has to be the most scatological role seen on an Edinburgh stage since Gavin Mitchell played a dancing jobby in Pass the Spoon.
Not to mention a thoroughly inappropriate Scotsman in Happy the Elf (Laurie Motherwell); a mad scientist in the form of Dr X (Niall Walsh) and a skimpily dressed bimbo who turns out to have rather more brains that the cliché would predict in Mrs Claus (Julia Carstairs).
This is not so Scooby-orientated that it is completely bereft of pantomime elements. The singing of contemporary songs with twisted words is excellently done – particularly as there are no microphones at all. Breaking the fourth wall is done with relative ease, but rather less successful are the set pieces – a food eating element in particular and an “it’s behind you” sequence. Although they are inventively inserted into the plot they do not sit comfortably there.
Of course, this being both panto, there has to be a hugely hissable villain. But it being Scooby Doo, their true identity can not be revealed until the final real. Leaving the field to a sisterly trio of minions.
Great fun is had by Bloodlust (Emma Nevell), Battleaxe (Jodie Mitchell) and Bubbles (Caprice Avis). Although Nevell and Mitchell have a long way to go to rise from the level of minions to full-on baddies, Avis has the choice role, particularly when she is called on to explain – with toe-curling detail – just when bubbles can be a portent of evil.
This does have its faults – it could have a good 30 minutes cut without too much being missed – but it is lively, inventive and provides a thoroughly scurrilous antidote to the family-orientated pantomimes generally offered.