Gordon Hibbert reflects on twenty years of Killin panto

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“We are so fortunate in Killin to have the largest hall in Perthshire. It is a fine asset to the village. It wasn’t originally designed to be a theatre so may not be ideal for performing shows in but over the years we have adapted. It is a lovely hall to work with and we are so lucky to call it home. In many drama clubs most rehearsals take place in someone’s front room and with a week to go you finally get your venue. In Killin the team are so fortunate that from day one they are using the space that they are going to perform in. This is a big step towards the big prize in building the children’s confidence. They go on that stage rehearsal after rehearsal and they are not phased when it comes to their big nights.

“The hall needs to have support and income. It isn’t cheap – we spend a lot of money on the hall and we don’t begrudge that. Some people think that the hall is provided for free and that the club is an extension to school, some sort of community group paid for by the government! Most of our ticket price and annual membership goes to renting the McLaren Hall. Recently when I was in London, Lion King tickets cost around £70.00 each. The cheapest child ticket to a pantomime in Perth would cost around £20.00. I am proud that our ticket prices this year £8.50 for adults around £5.50 for children, particularly when people say, ‘that was as good as anything I’ve seen in Stirling or Perth’.

…we have had our audience put their hands together and cheer these special effects having given them a memorable panto moment.

“I have been lucky enough to see some of the great West End shows and some of their grand special effects. I then come back home with a buzzing head, trying to work out how we can take those effects that have cost thousands to develop and use them as inspiration for our shows and effects. I once saw a sunrise scene in Lion King that really impressed me. We worked it out and had silhouettes of animals going across an emblazoned backdrop. We have had sprouting beanstalks and rockets launching out of the stage and then vanishing into the ceiling. These are parts of the show with no actors on stage, no dialogue, yet we have had our audience put their hands together and cheer these special effects having given them a memorable panto moment. Each year I try and find something a little bit special to do. We try to bring special effects to Killin that should never be there – they should be impossible.

“The club itself certainly has snowballed over the years. We started getting involved in plays and then in festivals through the Scottish Community Drama Association. One of the reasons we do competitions is to learn. You get criticised and it’s a bit painful at the time but if you listen to what’s being said to you and take an average, you will learn and you will improve. About four years ago David MacAskill and myself were in the top eight or nine out of around 150 teams at the Scottish Finals at the Edencourt Theatre in Inverness. The following year with Alex Tigwell, Glenda and Lesley got to the Scottish final again. All these results are showing that the quality of our performances is at a high enough standard to compete with anything in Scotland.

…I always see that week as a small step to saying thank you.

“After the panto we have the Killin Komedy Festival in May and we are putting an entry into the One Act Play Festival. The Scottish Final of the Festival is in Orkney so we will also be in attendance there. We’ve got a busy spring and by the time we get to May we are back working full blast again on the next panto. The week following the panto is a busy one as we host the Burns Supper for the senior citizens of the village. These people have supported the club at pantomimes, festivals and shows for years and I always see that night as a small step to saying thank you.

“The club has also become more professional over the years, because it had to – to keep that standard up. Yet we never turn someone away, this doesn’t happen elsewhere. If you’re in Falkirk or Perth and your son or daughter wants to be in a show, they go through an audition with the chance that they might be turned down and told ‘you are not good enough’. I’m so proud that this doesn’t happen in Killin and that will always be the case. The club is changing, we manage to attract new people, every year when I go into casting my friends will ask ‘are you expecting many this year’? I’ve learnt not to listen to gossip and rumour. The truth is that when we get there with the room is full of people who want to be involved. It is so moving when you have all these people who want to help.”

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