It was the final dress rehearsal and just 24 hours before curtain up when I found myself drinking tea with Ian Grieve, director of Perth’s 2015 Panto, Beauty and Beast. This is his tenth stint in a Panto Director’s chair and as well as prodding and poking leading ladies and ugly sisters into line, he has also walked the boards in numerous other productions.
This year, he’s gone right back to Panto basics with a proper, traditional script and a cast stuffed full of Scottish theatre’s most beloved members. In fact, there are so many great things to write about these talented people it would be foolish of me to start – buy a programme when you go and you’ll get the full, five page rundown!
Having played the king in Perth last year, Ian hadn't expected to be offered the role as director, and accepted it on the basis that it could very well be his last stab at Panto (Oh No It Won’t!). He has gone gung-ho with an outstanding mix of outlandish characters, gorgeously silly nonsense and local, homespun Perth banter.
“We had two weeks to rehearse and I knew we needed to have the very best people on that stage. Barry Hunter is undoubtedly the best Scottish Dame there is today and frankly, I don’t know anyone more evil than Amanda Beveridge so she had to be Deadly Nightshade! Angie, Harry and Tom all thankfully said yes and then we brought in this new, fresh talent in AmyBeth, David and Martin and I knew we had a brilliant cast.
We cast the kids blind, not knowing which of Perth’s dance and theatre school’s they were from. Interestingly we seem to have ended up with a good mix and they really are an exceptionally talented lot.
Stuart Watson, the musical director has been my pal since primary school and I knew we were in safe hands with him. The mood and scoring is meticulous. ”
Ian’s love of all things silly fits Panto like a giant hand slipping into a comic-sized glove and after a rewrite with Alan McHugh they were content that they had brought the Dame into the heart of the stage and loaded just the right amount of local banter, innuendo and toilet humour into two hours of old fashioned, family fun.
“It does mix modern day with fairytale – kind of Once Upon A Time meets Geordie Shore. All the characters have been carefully brought to life with this in mind and alongside the wonderful Belle and her Beast there’s a smattering of villains, all with their own agenda.”
Ian is currently teaching at New College Lanarkshire but has enjoyed his time back in the director’s chair.
“Like I said, it wasn’t something I’d planned so I've been able to go at it as though it’s my last show. More than any other production, Panto comes with a huge responsibility and has to make an impression on every single audience member.
I know as a parent, how frugal families need to be at this time of year and buying Panto tickets is a very deliberate part of designing the perfect Christmas for your children. It's a special night where everyone gets together to have a good time and it’s up to us make it fun.“
Ian has been in more Pantos than he’s seen, his first being Dick Whittington back in 1983 when he played a walk on guard; and even though he comes with thirty years experience, he sits before me, slightly nervous. You see, he wants so much for all of us to enjoy and laugh and love Beauty and Beast, and for his unexpected production at Perth to become part of your magical 2015 Christmas.
Having been, I can confirm that all of his wishes on this count have come true - it is one of the best Pantos I have seen in years and every audience member around me seemed to be saying the same.
If you’ve not booked your ticket, go and do it right now! Read our full review here on Small City.
Gallery Photographer: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan is a photographer working primarily in theatre and film sets. His parents gave him his first camera at the age of 14 and, three years later - despite no formal training in art or photography - his work had been published and exhibited internationally. More on his website here>>>