Gordon Hibbert reflects on twenty years of Killin panto

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“The village had a population of 700 when I came along in the 90s and when you think that in one year more than 10% of the village population will be involved in the panto – that is fabulous for the community. It is not just a one off – we have been doing this for twenty years and they are still coming back for more. We have seen things come and go in the village, different events have been great for three or four years and then they’ve had their time. The regeneration that we get from the young people helps our club. I know that there are kids who cannot wait to be 8 years old so that they can get on that stage. I received a text a few nights ago which said ‘I never realised what the Drama Club did for the kids – it is absolutely amazing’. When you get little messages like that you can’t help but feel proud.

“We try to keep the kids involved but we do know that there will come a time when it is not cool to be in drama anymore but what you hope is that some of them might come back. I noticed Bindi Pease (nee Webster) was in the first panto and this year her daughter Emily is in the show, Megan’s had a go at it previously and Bindi is helping out too. Again it is like a family – being in a show, left it for a wee while and then come back into it.

I know now that people didn’t like that. The kids thought it was great, but the audience were looking for a traditional panto…

“I remember a funny story from back in 1997, getting very close show week, a certain key cast member came to see me very seriously to tell me that on the Friday night he wouldn’t be able to play his part as a judge in the show because his mum had bought him a ticket and he was coming to watch!

“One year we had a big problem with a drop cloth when it got stuck part of the way down. A young Daniel Holden delivered his lines with one hand holding up the drop cloth and ploughed his way through it. Daniel joined us quite timid but left us a very confident young man. We are not the only reason for that but we are part of the reason.

“Sometimes we get naturals – Tasha Manning came to a casting meeting and absolutely nailed it. I may give myself rules like ‘everybody has to do a small part in their first year’ and I do generally tell myself that I want to get to know someone before handing them a large part but she was an exception. I thank God that I was awake to that and didn’t push her away or shove her into a small part – she needed to have a decent part and in her second year she was playing principal boy.

“It is a balance as well you have to encourage new comers whilst still providing a good show. We can’t take it in turn to be dame and that’s where it’s hard sometimes – I know that some people have been disappointed from time to time. Generally I am pleased that the club trusts me to make decisions always with the club first. If we put on a bad show this year, it won’t hit us until next year. In 2008 we did “Snow White and the Seven” a modern take on the classic. I know now that people didn’t like that. The kids thought it was great, but the audience were looking for a traditional panto. Next Year’s audience is only as good as this year’s show and that is why we cannot let our standards drop.

“I am aware now that it is not easy for people to join a club. It is not a clique. We help people if they would like to join, feed them in and support them. If they want to get involved in painting scenery, making props, front of house – everyone is welcome. We need lots of people and it’s not just about being on the stage. I am particularly on the look out for technicians again, we need people with a technical eye – if you want to immerse yourself and control the emotions of the audience with sound and light, please get in touch.

…and that’s all because I eventually answered the advert to get involved in Killin Drama Club and I am so grateful to amateur drama for giving me a great interest.

“I never thought I would still be going twenty years later – two or three at the most maybe?! Twenty years is a long time and now I can’t imagine Christmas without a panto in Killin. When I look through the list of hundreds of people who have been with us over the years, we have come a long way since 90s. It is going to be poignant at this year’s pantomime – there will be a credit list of all the people who have been involved with the pantomime over the twenty years. Some of those people are not with us anymore. We have lost a lot of good friends over the years and this will be a chance to tip our hats to them.

“When it is time to stop, I hope I know. If I do not feel the buzz and excitement, I will not do it. As long as I do have that drive and the club want me to do the panto, then I will. I am aware that the years are going by but I enjoy good health and continue to do so. I have certainly got a whole load of plays to do before I call it a day. I see so many of my friends who get to the point where they cannot learn lines and so every year I deliberately learn a script. My fear is that I could lose the knack of learning a script.

“This year I am inviting everyone to come along and help us celebrate twenty years. If you have been to a Killin panto before – do not miss this one as there is going to be plenty surprises. We are pushing the boat out from the minute you walk through the door and into the theatre. We have a stunning start for the show, a great cast and you will not be going home disappointed. From a production stand point we have some tried and tested elements, some elements completely new to our stage and the special effects will not disappoint. It pays respect to our past and puts on a good show as well.

“I do want to say thank you to all those who have come along and supported us over the years because for those like myself who share this hobby, it is nothing if that hall is empty. Before my time the club was active back in the 1930s and 40s, it then reformed in the 1980s. To those members who worked with very basic material in the way of staging, curtains and technical support – well done to them as they kept amateur drama alive in Killin and our club exists because of them. They brought the club here first. To everybody who has been in the club, I thank them and they are all welcome back at anytime. It would be lovely to see some familiar faces.

“To anybody new to the village, if you want to get involved, gain a new pool of friends and get to know people very quickly, the Drama Club is one of the key places to go. It does demand time and has to follow a pretty strict regime of rehearsals but you will definitely get out what you put in. I would love to see more people in the club. I have friends all over Scotland now that I met through drama. I’ve now got a network of skilled, talented friends and that is all because I eventually answered that Killin Drama Club advert. I am so grateful to amateur drama for giving me a great interest.

“The whole year is an emotional roller-coaster for me but I am so moved when I hear the audience thanking cast members at the end of a show because they have worked so hard for so many weeks and to see them get the recognition that they have earned gives me a huge buzz. To see the children achieve their goals is just priceless. I do believe that there are lots of youngsters who have benefited from our club and long may that continue.”

The Killin Drama Club performs “Treasure Island”, their 20th annual pantomime on Thursday 15th, Friday 16th and Saturday 17th January 2015 at 7.30pm in the McLaren Hall, Killin. Tickets are available from the Studio, Killin and are priced at £8.50 for adults, £7.00 for OAPs, £5.50 for children and a family ticket is available for £24.00.
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