Gordon Hibbert reflects on twenty years of Killin panto

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“If you go down to McLaren High School and look on the honours boards as you go in and there is a disproportionate success rate for Killin children. When I think about the McLaren High catchment area it is totally disproportionate to the rest of the villages and towns. I saw it a couple of years back and got shivers down my spine as I’d had the pleasure of working with so many of those on the boards when they were children in KDC. If we contributed in some small way to that then I’m delighted – mission accomplished!

…it is an escape, without doubt.

“A big regret of mine is that I was around forty when I got into drama and that is a dreadful waste to me. I wish I was involved in it so much earlier, but I am very keen to catch up. I think having life experience has helped because you know what is believable and what is not from a performance perspective. One of the hard things to do is to let go. If you put a young person on stage who is very self-conscious about their appearance and wants to look nice for grandma and granddad, there is not a lot I can do unless they abandon that character and become their stage role. I’m quite happy to have a laugh at myself on stage and have people laugh along with me. That’s something that young people often find difficult to adapt to. I can be so many different people with different jobs that I could never do in reality when performing – it is an escape, without doubt.

“About 10 years ago we started decorating the whole hall for our pantomimes. When the audience walk up those three steps at the front of the McLaren Hall we want them to know they are in wonderland from that very moment. A lot of the audience go into the McLaren Hall to perhaps a Women’s Rural meeting or badminton – I want to shatter that perception straight away. This year it is all about ships, sailing and pirates and the place will be adorned from outside.

Sheena Chisholm has been there sitting on her piano stool for twenty years…

“This year we are very grateful to the local Co-op – who helped us with a bag pack raising a good amount of funds. We are also grateful to Tesco who are supporting the popcorn machines which are going in the foyer. This year everyone coming to the panto gets a free tub of popcorn!

“As long as I am involved, we could never do ‘just another panto’. The next has to be the best and that is hard to achieve after twenty years. You can’t keep reinventing the wheel every year, but by jove we do drive the cast very hard to get that extra little bit, that extra snippet.

“It’s alright for me to have the dreams, but somebody has to make it all work and you need somebody equally strong and firm – that is the panto role that Lesley plays. Glenda has a lot of stage experience with her facial expressions being commented about wherever we go. She knows the ropes and what is wanted.

“Sheena Chisholm has been there sitting on her piano stool for twenty years. Usually she doesn’t get music and I will say ‘you know how it goes – laaaa la laaaa la laaaa…’ and within minutes she is playing the song. Sheena is incredibly talented. Her husband Alan helps with scene backdrops. He will have his equipment with bits of string and will start off with six or seven lines. After a few hours he always produces something perfect with the perspective required for the street buildings, window frames, roof line and the like. He has produced so much wonderful scenery over the years. Elizabeth Murphy is another wonderful artist. Sammy Hibbert is fantastic with choreography and has helped many years.

“I was stuck last year in Miami and missed a very busy week in the lead up to the panto. Kay Dowling and her family work their butts off for the club and even more so in that week. There was a set built in a long barn here at the house and Kay and her family came and found it, took it away in a tractor to the hall and worked away on it. Another family involved in many different roles within the club are the MacRobbies.

“Many people put in so much effort for the club, and there’s new ones coming through all the time. Vicky Grant this year is in charge of chaperoning the children. I’ve not had to turn around once – she has it all taken care of. When you have so many willing people like these I don’t have to worry – it will be done and will be done right. I can’t do it without the team. They are like a second family.”

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