Florians turn, turn again to Dick Whittington
IT has been 20 years since Inverness drama club last performed the version of Dick Whittington that opens at their Bught Avenue theatre this weekend,
Yet although Nicky Nicol, who both directs and plays the dame in the show, calls it a panto that does not get performed so often as others, the Florians’ show coincides with two other Highland companies also presenting the story of the legendary Lord Mayor of London at Nairn Little Theatre and the Macdonald Aviemore Resort.
"That’s the way — it’s either a feast or a famine," Nicol said.
"But it shouldn’t matter. People often go to see more than one panto and it doesn’t matter if it is the same one."
The seeming glut of Dick Whittingtons does not seem to have affected Florians panto ticket sales with the run approaching a total sell out earlier this week, and the Florians have been told there are regulars who prefer their home-grown version to its bigger budget rival at Eden Court because it is a much more intimate experience.
The Florians’ Dick Whittington comes, as usual, with a script written in-house, this time by Nicol’s brother Trevor, although with a few more topical updates.
Nicol senior is one of three Florians members who were in the show the first time it was performed, but the only returning to the same role.
However, that does not mean that his lines as Sarah Sidebottom have come flowing back to him.
"If only it worked that way," he sighed.
"Obviously at the end of the day, as a performer you never get to see the final show in its entirety, but I don’t mind doing both.
"I’m able to keep a handle on things and my wife, Cynthia, can keep me right. She’s doing the costumes, this time. It was only supposed to be mine, but somehow she ended up doing them all, so she’ll be around anyway. We’re quite a good partnership."
Still, it does mean promotion for Brian Howlett, who played apprentice boy Idle Jack in the previous version. He now plays Jack’s boss, Alderman Fitzwarren, with Joshua McDiarmid now taking over the comic sidekick role.
The rest of the cast features a mix of familiar Florians faces and some relative newcomers, with the youngsters of the Junior Florians also very involved as the chorus or the army of rats who do the bidding of King Rat, played by Starlight Theatre regular Steve Kelly.
Making it a family affair, Steve’s wife Carla is also in the cast as pirate Martini — comrade of Captain Morgan (Fiona Chapman).
Returning to principal boy duties is Aileen Hendry as the future Lord Mayor of London, assisted by her loyal feline friend played by Nina Thomson, who has already played a cat in a Florians’ production.
Morag Russell, who last week became the first recipient of the Junior Florians Johnathan Stuart Trophy, is romantic lead as Alice Fitzwarren and other key members of the cast include Ashley Taylor as Captain Cockle and Fiona McDonald as Astra the Fairy.
"It’s a big cast as far as named principals are concerned and at times we have over 20 people on stage," Nicol said.
"When we started doing regular pantos, we did two weeks solid.
"Looking back, I can’t think how we managed it, but we got through it somehow."
• The Florians present Dick Whittington at their theatre at Bught Avenue from Friday 5th to Saturday 13th December, daily except Sunday at 7.30pm and with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.