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Little Mermaid panto set to make a splash in Thurso


By Jean Gunn


Maeva Donaldson, who plays Mariel, and Keisha Sutherland, Prince Derek, during rehearsals.
Maeva Donaldson, who plays Mariel, and Keisha Sutherland, Prince Derek, during rehearsals.

A FISHY tale is set to unfold in Thurso in the run-up to Christmas as local performers take to the stage with an adaptation of The Little Mermaid.

Thurso Players are set to raise the curtain next week for this year's pantomine which features a large local cast including a number of seasoned performers.

Billed as "a fun-filled, pun-filled traditional panto" suitable for all ages, this adaptation of The Little Mermaid, by Warren McWilliams, will feature a mix of contemporary songs as well as Christmas ones.

Sarah Wilkinson will direct a cast of 39 performers, helped with a similar sized production crew.

This year sees Thurso Players newcomer Keisha Sutherland, a well-known local musician, taking to the stage as a traditional panto hero.

The director is delighted to have Keisha on board playing the part of Prince Derek, along with Maeva Donaldson as Mariel. Maeva has been a junior with the players for many years.

Glyn Jackson, usually musical director, has taken a step back this year to be the dame.

“He is absolutely brilliant,” Sarah said. “He works very closely with Ali Glen, who is Captain Aargh.”

This year providing the musical direction is Martin Shepherd.

Glyn Jackson, who takes on the role of the dame, and Ali Glen, Captain Aargh, during rehearsals.
Glyn Jackson, who takes on the role of the dame, and Ali Glen, Captain Aargh, during rehearsals.

Taking on the role of the Bastion Crab, narrator and Mariel's best friend, is Kane Cameron, while Sean MacGregor plays sea witch Octavia, a baddie, who has three powerful solo songs to perform.

The supporting cast includes mermaid, pirates, a royal chorus and varies types of sea creatures who will all be joining in the fun.

As usual the sets will be spectacular and the costumes are sure to sparkle, bringing to life all that lies under the sea as well as above.

I am really delighted with it. I think the adults will enjoy it just as much as the children.

Director Sarah said: “It is going great – I am really delighted with it. It is really funny this year.

"In previous years it has been more traditional. I think the adults will enjoy it just as much as the children.”

It is the first time Sarah, a works at North Highland College as a curriculum leader for health and social services, has directed something of this scale.

Last year she was fortunate to get a place on a directors' course with the Scottish Community Drama Association and one of the provisos was that candidates had to direct a large-scale production within a year of completing the training.

A busy scene from rehearsals for The Little Mermaid.
A busy scene from rehearsals for The Little Mermaid.

Her mentor Carole Williams, national drama adviser, came up recently to watch a run through of the production. While in Thurso she also ran some workshops.

Sarah said: “I have directed smaller productions – I have not done anything as ambitious as this before. It has been a steep learning curve, but I have loved it.”

Producer Sara Donaldson pointed out that the annual show is a huge undertaking, with pre-production starting before the previous year’s panto is staged.

She explained: "Work starts on the panto at the beginning of each year, with auditions taking place at the end of the summer and rehearsals starting in September and carrying on three times a week, through until the week of the performance.

"When the cast are not rehearsing, the backstage crew are working hard to design, build and paint sets and backcloths and create eye-catching costumes.

"Every department is busy through the summer turning the director’s vision into reality, and works right up to performance time."

She added: "For the dedicated team of volunteers, both on-stage and off, panto is all-consuming at times with the Mill Theatre almost becoming a second home."

Opening night at Thurso High School is on Wednesday, December 11, at 7pm. The panto will run each evening until Saturday, with a Saturday matinée on December 14 at 2pm. Tickets are available from McBeath's the jewellers.

A grumpy Kane Cameron, who plays the Bastion Crab, can be seen in the background, while Maeva Donaldson (Mariel) takes centre stage.
A grumpy Kane Cameron, who plays the Bastion Crab, can be seen in the background, while Maeva Donaldson (Mariel) takes centre stage.


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