Panto director talks of creating a unique experience for the Fife audience

The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy.  Pic: Tom Illsley
The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk at the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy. Pic: Tom Illsley

We may hate to admit it, but with the dark nights beginning to draw in, panto season is just around the corner.

And preparations for this year’s Imagine Theatre production at the Adam Smith Theatre are well under way.

Jack and the Beanstalk will run at the Kirkcaldy theatre from Saturday, December 7 to Saturday, January 4.

Before rehearsals of any kind can take place, work has to be done on the panto script – and 
although the story may be well known, steps are taken to ensure the pantomime itself is unique each year.

This week we spoke to director Mairi Cowieson to find out exactly how the team goes about it.

“This year, Jack and the Beanstalk has been written by Ian Lauchlan.

“He’s Scottish himself and he does a lot of the writing for Imagine.

“He’s adapted the script for us, making it more regional.

“Last year I did the script edit for Beauty and the Beast. I made some changes to it to make it more suited to the local audience.

“You look at things like dialect, making sure there’s some local dialect in there.

“Other things you’ll look at will be some of the jokes, which need to be regionalised.

“You’ll maybe look to include some local areas or towns, or landmarks. Things familiar to the audience.

“After an initial edit, there will be some more edits I’m sure once we’re in rehearsals.

“We try to find something that’s current and newsworthy that we can use.

“Not something political, but something of local interest.

“There’s often things about seagulls, for example. They were included in Beauty and the Beast and I’m sure they will make a re-appearance in the script this year.

“Using local dialect and local references makes a big difference in panto and it ties in with the audience.

“It makes them feel more a part of the action if there’s certain things that resonate with them.

“For a local family audience it makes it funnier as well if you mention something local.”

This year will be Mairi’s second year directing the Adam Smith’s panto and she’s delighted to be coming back to the Kingdom where she has family connections – she was born in the Lang Toun and her parents live in Dairsie.

“I’m really pleased to be back up in Kirkcaldy. It was such a delight last year.

“The cast and the in-house team were great. There was a real family feeling among the cast and crew.

“I’m looking forward to working with everyone at the Adam Smith again.

“We have quite a few of the cast returning from last year as well for Jack and the Beanstalk.

“ It will be nice to have some familiar faces in the cast and crew, but it’s an added bonus having some new fresh faces to work with too.”

The cast for this year’s festive offering was announced recently, with three familiar faces returning from last year’s production.

David Rankine is back to play Fleshcreep, Kirkcaldy’s own Kim Shepherd is Fairy Nuffa nd Colin Little is the King.

Joining them, and new to the local panto stage, will be Stephen Docherty as Dame Trot, Martin Murphy as the Wee Willie, Kamen Brown in the title role of Jack and Charis Murray as Princess Tamara.

And they’ll be in Kirkcaldy for a couple of weeks ahead of opening night for some action packed rehearsals.

Mairi said: “We have just two weeks of rehearsals – one week in a rehearsal room and then we have it finished and ready to go, before we move onto the stage so we can work on the lighting and that kind of thing.

“The lighting was beautiful for Beauty and the Beast and I’m excited to be working with the in-house team at the Adam Smith again.

“I get quite excited about lighting and the aspects that it can bring.

“With the rehearsals it all comes quick, with a lot to fit in.”

As ever, the panto at the Bennochy Road theatre will be looking to keep audiences of all ages entertained.

We’ve been told it will definitely be full of beans, and there’s plenty of adventure to be had.

With hilarious slapstick, fabulous song and dance routines and breathtaking costumes, once again it looks like this is a panto not to be missed during this coming festive season.

Audiences are invited to come along and discover a world of possibilities at the top of the beanstalk.

“I love directing panto,” says Mairi.

“It works in well with having a young family as it’s nice for them to come along and see it.

“I’ve always loved panto.

“Imagine follows the very traditional method and stories and it holds the traditional values of panto which I really like.

“One of my first jobs at college was performing in panto. It was a traditional family panto.

“With Imagine, the values they had really appealed to me.

“Christmas isn’t Christmas without panto. It really sets everyone up in the festive mood.”

Being back in Fife during the festive period works out well for Mairi providing a chance for some family time.

She added: “I’ll be spending Christmas with mum and dad soI’ll have the chance to bring my boys over to see the panto.”

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Adam Smith Theatre from Saturday, December 7, 2019, until Saturday, January 4, 2020.

Tickets are available from the box office or online at www.onfife.com.