A FAMILIAR face form past Florians’ panto will be missing from the stage this year – but she will not be too far away.
Fiona McDonald has plenty of panto experience, from appearing in the chorus to playing principal roles and comic sidekicks, but for this year’s panto, Babes in The Wood, she is seeing things from the other side as director.
This is the first major Florians production to be directed by McDonald, who is also choreographing the show, although not her first directing role.
Two years ago she directed the Florians’ entry for the Scottish Community Drama Association Festival of One Act Plays, and took them to the national final, so the omens are good.
"Basically, I did it for the challenge," she said.
"The opportunity arose to do it and I put my name in the hat."
Which does mean she has an unusually large cast to marshall for panto’s own version of the Robin hood legend with almost 20 people taking part, many of them principals.
"It’s not one of the better known pantos, but we thought it was time for a different one," McDonald said.
"We’ve done it twice before, but hopefully I’ve put my own stamp on it. Some of the songs have been kept the same, but we’ve written new lyrics to some of the ones we’ve kept to keep it fresh."
It is a fresh side to panto for McDonald, who is also busy choreographing the 2016 show from Inverness Musical Theatre Company, the newly renamed Inverness Opera Company, Me and My Girl.
However, she is finding directing can be as much fun as performing.
"It’s a different challenge," she said.
"The cast have worked really hard, though, and I’m spoiled with them."
That cast includes several who have already appeared in the Florians’ version of Babes in The Wood, including Trevor Nicol who wrote the script back in villainous mode as the Sheriff of Nottingham, and his brother Nicholas Nicol, back beneath the make-up as the dame, Nurse Nellie.
Trevor’s wife Caroline is another Babes in The Wood veteran who returns for the 2015 version, as do past cast members Brian Howlett and Anne Bamborough.
Also returning after a few year’s absence from the Florians’ panto is Nicola Gray, who first appeared in the production with the junior chorus when she was 11. In 2004 she appeared as Daftie Henchman No 2, one of the Sherriff’s men, and this year is promoted to Daftie Henchman No 1.
The show also has some new faces including principal boy Katy Watson as Robin Hood and 13 year old Alan Hasson, who plays Will Scarlet.
Trevor Nicol acknowledged their have been a few update in the script, which has not only been performed by the Florians twice, but has also been performed by the Dingwall Players.
"In the original version, the two daft henchmen were called Boris and Gorby, which shows just how long ago it was," he laughed.
However, he is looking forward to "channelling a bit of the Alan Rickman" to play the dastardly sheriff.
"The baddies are always the best parts to play," he said.
"He’s a particularly nasty villain. He loves torturing people, that’s his hobby. He’s got his own torturing suite, which you’ll see if you come to the show."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Trevor the actor seems to have been well served by his scriptwriter.
"Yes, I do get some good lines," he smiled.
• Babes in The Wood can be seen at the Florians Theatre, Bught Avenue, Inverness, from Friday 4th to Saturday 12th December, at 7.30pm. There are matinées on both Saturdays at 2.30pm, and no performance on Sunday 6th December.