Kirkcaldy High Street becomes backdrop for Kings Theatre’s big wee panto
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The Kings Live Lounge is reuniting the cast from two successful runs of ‘Ya Wee Sleeping Beauty’ for a new show this festive season - ‘Ya Wee Beauty And Beastie.’
Rehearsals get underway shortly with the curtain going up on December 7, with performances scheduled right through the festive season until January 6.
Last year saw the cast enjoy a full run after their first endeavours were hit by COVID restrictions which saw all live venues closed once more - and the show was a huge hit with audiences.
This year the Kings goes head to head with the Adam Smith Theatre which hosts panto again for the first time since 2019, but the ‘wee’ show is planning to pack a punch at the Esplanade venue with a script written for, and about, Kirkcaldy. The Lang Toun location is firmly underlined with the backdrop which takes the town’s High Street into pantoland.
It was created by Crail based artist Lilias Conroy after an approach from director, Jonathan
She creates quirky landscapes on silk which bring the landscape to life in vivid colour - exactly what Jonathon was looking for to frame the stage at the Kings.
Lilias said: Jonathon found me online. He was searching for silk paintings in Kirkcaldy and my work came up. He got in touch and outlined what he wanted for the show.”Creating a panto backdrop was a new challenge for Lilias.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said. “Jonathon wanted the High Street with its ‘for sale signs as part of the backdrop. I always like to go and take pictures before I start, and when I saw the High Street, I saw some beautiful old buildings. Which you maybe don’t see unless you look up - people tensed to only look at ground level.”
Lilias’ canvas shows the pedestrianised zone looking from Kirk Wnd and it is instantly identifiable to anyone who live in Kirkcaldy. She also used a historic house on Kirk Wynd for the side panels which also feature on stage.
Armed with pictures - “lots of them” - Lilias returned to her studio to begin work: “The silk is very fine and beautiful, and it has to be stretched on a frame. I start drawing free hand, and it is then painted with silk dye which can’t be removed. It takes a long time to dry so can only do it in sections.”With the work complete and the backdrops delivered to the venue, Lilias is now looking forward to seeing it in place admitting: “It’ll be emotional seeing it on stage at the panto.”
Sets are currently being built for the show, and the theatre’s publicity campaign is also cranking up to fill the seats every night - the busy schedule includes school shows, a relaxed performance, and a few post-Christmas for adults only.
“We really are pulling out all the stops to make this year's show the very best ever, and we are proud that everything is made locally for Kirkcaldy,” said Jonathon. “That’s why we commissioned Lilias to re-create our beloved High Street, in a panto style, for our opening scenes. We are just thrilled with the results. These will be made into full scale cloths to grace the stage in a true panto first!”
Billy Mack, panto doyen, has also filmed filming a special promotional video, and made good use of the newly unveiled red heart on thee Esplanade as a backdrop.
The star of many festive shows in Fife, he plays Kitty McCrivens in the 2023 show, and will be joined on stage by the cast of the last two years - a five-strong troupe which makes use of the full venue to weave some panto magic in a show which is billed as a “tale as old as time” but firmly set in the magical Lang Toun.
Billy is joined by Mark McDonell and Kirsty Strachan in the Baddie and the Butler roles, while Kirkcaldy-born Sarah Brown Cooper and Robin Mackenzie return to play the lead roles of Bella and the Beast.
Jonathon said: ““We are proud to be made entirely in Kirkcaldy for Kirkcaldy. We are also thrilled to be providing work and employment in the arts for a host of local professionals, from costume makers to lighting designers, from backstage and bar staff, to the performers themselves!”
For Sarah it is a chance to star in panto in her home town and with Jonathon who gave her a start in the industry when he directed panto at the Adam Smith.
“I was 10 or 11 and I was so starstruck by everyone,” she said. “ It was my first time working with professional actors and I remember being in awe but at the same time I was like a sponge, just watching and trying to soak up everything they were doing. I remember looking at the princess and thinking ‘I want to be her; I want to do that’.
Sarah attended Gail Neish dance studios in the town, and took drama lessons at the theatre.
Kirkcaldy where I learned to dance. After leaving Balwearie High School, she headed to London where she has been based ever since.
“I did so many things, but it was just so good, and I think because Kirkcaldy is a smaller town you get support from people and they do genuinely care for you.” she said. “There are people like Jonathan who’s known me since I was a child. He gave me a call 10 years later asking me to come and do a panto. It’s great to have those sorts of connections.”