Shian’s journey from Aladdin’s princess to starring at the Fringe

Shian Denovan (far left) with the cast of Snap. Catch. Slam.
Shian Denovan (far left) with the cast of Snap. Catch. Slam.

performing as Princess Jasmine in Channelkirk Primary School’s production of Aladdin, Shian Denovan had probably never heard of the Edinburgh Fringe, despite being just 23 miles away.

But the Oxton girl, currently based in London, just missed on a top Fringe accolade, after being nominated for the best actress stage award.

It follows a month-long run of performances at The Pleasance in Snap. Catch. Slam., which ended on Sunday and earned widespread praise – the latest being from the Independent, which described it as “an hour of intense storytelling which builds to a devastating emotional climax”.

Shian caught the critics’ attention as a teacher who lashes out at a troublesome pupil in one of three tales written by Emma Jowett, based on real life stories.

Shian told TheSouthern: “When I found out I was nominated, I was really chuffed and started crying.

“All three stories are different, but share the theme of changes in life.

“You can never be sure how the play will be received. But it had already won Best New Writer award at the Lost Theatre Festival before I joined and when I found out we would be performing at the Pleasance Courtyard I thought it would do well. It is a great piece.”

Two offers from theatres in London to host the play are now on the table, opening another opportunity for Shian since her acting debut aged just nine.

“I remember it started when we got a new headteacher,” Shian said.

“With the former headteacher, it was usually the older girls who got the lead parts in the school shows, but that year she decided to have an audition.

“I was picked for the part of Princess Jasmine and although some of the older girls picked on me because of it, I was very excited.”

Regular trips to Edinburgh for drama classes followed while Shian studied at Earlston High School, before leaving for Oxford School of Drama at the age of 17.

She has since acted in feature films, including a lead role in horror screening Birthday, alongside Scottish actor Robert Cavanah, which earned Shian a visit to the Cannes Film Festival.

But it remains as tough as ever to emerge from the pack as an up-and-coming actress, as Shian confirmed.

“It is really hard – you have to be so committed to it consistently,” she added.

“I am classed as self-employed and I spent several hours a day writing to people to get work.

“A lot of the people I attended drama school with have now given up acting.”

The fringe is not a holiday either, for actors and comedians, with many being struck down with the infamous festival flu.

And with Snap. Catch. Slam. on stage 26 days in a row through August, Shian has a good excuse to enjoy a rest this week, despite her partner’s initial scepticism.

Shian told us: “I was telling my boyfriend how tired I was and he said ‘How can you be? You are only on stage for an hour a day, I am at work for eight hours a day’.

“But it is a very intense show and when he came to see it, he said afterwards: ‘You must be knackered!’

“Quite a few of the girls have been ill, but I have avoided it. However, by the time I return to London I will probably collapse in a heap.”

And while Shian continues look for her big break, she is sure her move to London 10 months ago will help her career prosper.

“There is a lot more competition in London and it is tougher, but it is something that had to be done,” she said.

“Already it as helped my career, as I would not have had the opportunity to appear in this play if I had stayed in Edinburgh, because it has a London theatre company behind it.”