Nicola relishing the laughs and boos of panto season at the Royal Lyceum

Nicola Roy
Nicola Roy
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PANTO season: a time for festive cheer? Well, that depends on who you ask. If you’re Edinburgh actor Nicola Roy, who plays one of two of Beauty’s wicked sisters in Stuart Paterson’s Beauty & The Beast, then there’s also a good deal of festive booing to contend with.

Roy’s peals of laughter suggest that, far from presenting a glass jaw to the cruel blows of a child’s disapproval, she’s looking forward to playing a baddie (“though if it happens at any other time of the year, I’ll worry!”).

Of Beauty’s two sisters, Hannah and Hazel (the latter played by Karen Traynor), she says, “I suppose they would be your archetypal wicked sisters. Some might say the ugly sister type! They are very much the comic parts, I would say – or hopefully they will be – of the show. They detest Beauty at the start.

“They are spoilt brats, they are quite nasty, they are bullies essentially. They are there to annoy Beauty, to make her life hell, but they do go on a bit of a journey and by the end they realise the error of their ways.

Roy continues, “They are a bit like a two-headed monster, I would say. They are very much one, the way that they are written.

“They like the same things, they like nice things, they like to be spoilt, they like to be horrible to Beauty, but by the end they have kind of realised the error of their ways and they feel bad for the way they have treated Beauty. They end up actually turning on each other, so they take all their frustrations out on each other and by the end they are kind of in comepetition with each other.”

Over and above a previous role in a Traverse production called Futureproof, in which she played a Siamese twin, Roy says that she has previous experience on which to draw upon for the role of Hannah.

“I’ve got a younger sister and a brother,” she reveals. “My brother’s quite a bit older than me, but myself and my sister are quite close in age.

“So, yeah, I can very much draw upon that relationship. I would fight anybody who harmed her, but we have quite big arguments, but within ten minutes we are friends again. We could slag each other off as much as we want, but if anybody else slags either one of us off, then we’ll kill them – that’s kind of like Hannah and Hazel’s relationship.”

Roy has shown herself to be an adaptable performer, capable of convincing in high-concept drama (Futureproof, A Clockwork Orange), adult comedy (The Cherry Orchard) and family theatre (Aladdin), but she has a special fondness for Christmas shows.

“The thing about Christmas shows is that they are just great fun”, she says. “When I was little the only theatre I really saw was Christmas shows, and I remember thinking ‘oh, that’s why I wanted to be an actress’ because it just seemed such fun and it’s so magical.

“I think as an actor, when you do a Christmas show it’s the one time of year it really is just fun, it’s a completely different style of theatre. It’s the one time of year when children really do go.

“You get such a response, whether it’s them booing or laughing or something.

“It’s brilliant, it’s such an exchange between yourself and an audience,” she adds.

Asked how she approaches such an array of roles, Roy confirms that the methods differ, but she contests the idea that comic roles are “easier”.

“I think comic parts are sometimes more technical. It’s alot more about the timing of things. Everything’s got to come from a realistic place, [from] reality. Some people might think comedy is easier than serious roles, but I dont think that’s the case.”

When discussion turns to the show, Roy says that Beauty & The Beast is a children’s show at heart, though she adds that the story’s enduring theme of beauty not being skin deep will chime with adults, too.

“It’s a very grown-up production in some ways,” she says. “Some of it is very naturalistic and it really does have – I don’t want to go on about too much of a ‘moral story’ – but it really is there in this production.

“If you watch the fact that Beauty can fall in love with the Beast, not because of what he looks like, but because of the person that he is, and that is really followed through in this story.”

With characters here, there and everywhere taking their dose of moral medicine, you would anticipate that the wee yins watching will pick up the gist, though if they are as boisterous as Roy expects them to be towards the villains of the piece, then they will already have the right idea.

Beauty & The Beast, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street, tomorrow until December 31, 7pm (matinees December 3, 10, 17, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 at 2.30pm), £18-£24, 0131-248 4848