Gordon Hibbert reflects on twenty years of Killin panto

Published on
11 Jan
Updated 12/01/15 at 11:18
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Exclusive! 4 years ago Blogs
January 2015 will see the 20th annual Killin Drama Club pantomime performance when Treasure Island takes over the McLaren Hall in Killin. One member of the club at the centre of the pantomime whirlwind is Gordon Hibbert, the director of the panto for twenty years and chairman of the club. Killin.info sat down with Gordon to chat about his years of experience in drama, the values at the centre of such a strong community club and how he feels being this side of twenty pantomimes.

Gordon lived in Comrie in the 1990s when he first got involved with an amateur drama club. Gordon said, “One of our neighbours who passed the house everyday stopped and said ‘we need you… your village needs you’. I didn’t know what she was talking about at first but they were putting on a show called Pirates of Penzance. They needed anybody that looked remotely like a pirate to beef up the production and so I was roped in, sang a few songs and it was fair to say that I was hooked from there. We did a few plays and bits and pieces and it wasn’t long before someone suggested that we did a pantomime. We first did Aladdin where I played the dame. I remember being sent out on stage and the pianist, who was obviously taking the mickey, started playing stripper-type music! I can remember having to start taking off the many layers of clothes I had on as the dame, only for some wise cracker in the audience to shout ‘keep them on Gordon’! The next panto in Comrie was Cinderella. I was cast as an ugly sister alongside Roger Lambert who used to be very much involved in Killin Drama Club (KDC). Roger used to tell me about his activities in Killin when he came over and guested in Comrie.

…pick that phone up and go and have a chat with the Drama Club about a pantomime!

“Before long I moved to Killin when I became steward at Killin Golf Club. At first I did nothing with drama because we were so busy with work. We noticed a KDC poster in the Paper Shop looking for somebody to direct a pantomime. If I looked at that poster once, I looked at it a hundred times. I had decided that I didn’t like when new people come into a village thinking they can change everything overnight and the last thing I wanted to do was to come along to a Killin club, get involved at a director level and having to tell them what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong. It is an instant way to put peoples back up and you wouldn’t settle into the community. So I let that poster stay in the Paper Shop window for over a year. In early 1995 my wife Maggie, being fed up with me hanging around the house, said ‘do what you really want to do, pick that phone up and go and have a chat with the Drama Club about a pantomime!’

“I went along to a meeting with Lesley Syme, Bill Douglas, Glenda Mardon and others and had a good chat about putting on a panto. As the group hadn’t done a panto in Killin yet they asked me what they would need. There were the obvious ones – like a cast, but then I went onto some of the other roles. I remember listing that we would need a pianist, a stage manager, somebody to operate the sound, somebody to operate the lights, somebody to be prompt, a special effects manager, a chaperone, a front of house manager, somebody to look after costumes, this list seemed to go on forever. Everyone around the table was agreeing and nodding. I have since learnt that they were gulping with every position I mentioned! At the end of the meeting we decided to have a go at it and we set out in 1996 to put on our first pantomime – Jack and the Beanstalk.

“The Mardons, Symes and my own family were very heavily involved that first year. The Women’s Rural Institute and Bunty MacGregor supported the club with costumes. I remember chatting to Bill Stitt Snr, he was chairman of the McLaren Hall committee at the time and he could not understand why we needed so many rehearsals. Back then the McLaren Hall had some very old curtains, no lighting or sound equipment. Glenda Mardon and Lesley Syme had approached the National Lottery for funding which led to KDC being one of the first clubs in Scotland to be granted a decent award. In time for the second year we had new curtains, a sound system and a lighting system in place. That project saw some £20,000.00 being spent on upgrades and equipment to use in the hall. We were very grateful to the lottery and local fundraisers and have since tried to make those facilities available to other people.

“The main aim for the first panto was to fulfill the promise – I had made a pledge to a few people that I would do it and I wanted to fulfill that. Over the years it has become so much bigger than that. I want to surprise people and bring some special magic to Killin. The village panto in any area is normally the first theatre experience for many children. This is the first time they are sitting in an audience watching a live show as opposed to watching something recorded on a screen. We have a big responsibility there – if we do it well and they enjoy it, they might say I want to go back and see some more.”

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