Curtain rises on another panto season

Troubled young troubadours star in charity's successful production of Aladdin

Raymond Ross

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In spite of the severe weather conditions, all passengers were able to board the Kibble Airlines flight K-HA1 from Paisley to Ibiza without delay and without the usual security hassles. Our VIP treatment was no doubt due to the fact that we were accompanying the redoubtable Mrs Twankey, widow, late of Ferguslie Park, and her two sons, Aladdie and Wishy.

I say "late of Ferguslie Park" not because the beauteous Mrs Twankey has passed on. Rather, after winning her holiday trip to Ibiza at the local Mecca Bingo establishment - and some dubious business in Ibiza involving the local gentry and some distinctly dodgy characters - the said widow came into a large fortune, due to the sterling efforts of her two boys.

Suffice it to say, if you are a resident of Bearsden you will soon be making the nouveau riche Mrs Twankey's acquaintance. My only advice would be - don't mess with your new neighbour.

Within a minute of arriving in Ibiza, Mrs Twankey had propositioned a local fruit merchant (a "gadgie selling melons", to be exact) on the grounds that he was not only "a wee cracker" but also "a stud muffin". Need I say more? Ladies, lock up your husbands.

Ibiza proved to be Party Central, where both Aladdie ("rough on the outside but pure of heart inside") and Wishy (a self-confessed "party animal who never rests") found the lumbers of their lives: two right princesses called Roslyn and So Shy respectively.

And all this took place in a nightclub called Amnesia, if I remember correctly.

The whole affair, in fact, was a pantomime from start to finish. But it was a pantomime that made valid educational points - as when the normally meek and mild Princess So Shy gave her Emperor father a right dressing down for his overly protective attitude towards her sister.

"Roslyn is a wonderful young woman who is curious about the world in which she lives," she told him. "You will not be here forever to protect her and unless you allow her responsibility and some freedom, she will grow up not knowing anything other than what you tell her."

She was articulating what you might call "a Kibble principle".

The Kibble Centre in Paisley is one of Scotland's most thriving social enterprises. It works with young people who have a complex mix of social, emotional, educational and behavioural problems. Although it works only with boys and young men, we took the point which was well made.

Not only was the pantomime boisterous, energetic, colourful and on occasion pointed; this was a cracking wee script and all the more cracking when you realise the input of the Kibble pupils who have all gone through "multiple placement breakdowns" in their educational histories.

Together with the help of music and drama teacher Laura Cairns and Reid Kerr College senior lecturer in drama Gavin Sinclair, the boys write their own script. They begin working at a week-long summer school on the storyline, the characters and the music and songs - not only do they dance, they also help with the choreography.

"From the start, every year, the pupils take ownership of the script, the process and the production," says deputy head Pauline Hart.

"It's experiential learning. It's about developing skills and securing learning through developing self-confidence; interdisciplinary learning based on the specific ingredients leading to positive outcomes - young people building self-esteem, developing new skills and literacies with a huge focus on health and well-being," she says.

The pantomime, and the partnership with Reid Kerr, has been going for 11 years, which means that the boys become more familiar with the production year upon year. A pupil with a non-speaking role in S1 will graduate to a small speaking part in S2, a bigger role in S3 and a lead role in S4.

It also means they work alongside actresses (this year's princesses, for example) that are students of Reid Kerr, learn something about college life and develop further social skills.

Gavin Sinclair works with the boys every Friday morning. "It's the best day of the week," he says. "It's special and the purpose is not, as at college, to make them better actors, but to help mould a team and to grow confidence and self-expression. They take a real pride in it and, when friends or family come to see them, they're often quite astonished at what these young people can do.

"The highlight is the trust we can achieve," he adds.

For drama teacher Ms Cairns, the experience is equally absorbing. "It takes over your life. I do love it, though, especially seeing what the boys get out of it. You see them at their best.

"This is not the kind of school where pupils bring you bunches of flowers. But you do get cards saying things like `This has been the best day of my life' - and that kind of speaks for itself, doesn't it?"

But there's also the void that comes after the production, especially for the residential students who will spend Christmas in the Kibble Centre.

"The show is always in the second last week of term so that we can spend time afterwards reflecting on the experience with the students," says Ms Cairns. "We also make a DVD of it so that they have their own record to keep."

This year the pantomime took place in the centre's spanking new theatre, The Gannochy Trust Hall for Expressive Arts.

"The award from the Gannochy Trust, which paid for the new theatre, is really a recognition of how much the dramatic arts support the development of our young people," says Ms Hart.

"The centre is about listening to pupils, being creative with them and adopting a shared `can do' attitude. The panto itself helps to promote self-discipline and mutual respect," she says.


Founded in 1857 by a charitable bequest from Elizabeth Kibble, the Kibble Centre is the largest multi-service centre in the UK specialising in work with young people at risk.

It provides community outreach, residential care, secondary education, intensive fostering, secure care and employment training for care leavers.

Following an adapted and individualised curriculum based on a secondary school model, all pupils have individualised education programmes (IEPs), while a more intensive education programme is delivered through the school's intensive support department.

Kibble's last HMIE inspection, in June 2008, highlighted its key strengths as high-quality arrangements to meet pupils' care; health and well-being; staff engagement in the life and work of the school and their high expectations for young people's attainment and achievements; innovative practice to improve services, including Kibbleworks and the Intensive Fostering Service; pupils' attainment and achievements and the improvement in their performance; and the quality of leadership of the chief executive, senior managers and staff across the service.


A graduate of the Kibble Centre's education unit, Chris Carter, who played the part of Wishy in the panto, is now training to be a chef at Kibbleworks, the centre's employment and enterprise hub.

As an S1 pupil, Chris attended the Friday drama group to watch and listen, and as his interest and confidence grew he began to take part in the class. He then went on to take small roles in the panto before assuming the lead part of Wishy.

This year he also began to take on the unofficial role of "producer". From the summer on, he was checking and helping to adapt the script with Mr Sinclair, making sure the lines were up to the minute, the "patter" had enough "street cred" and that Mr Sinclair was always aware of deadlines.

"Doing the pantos has been an amazing experience - unbelievable, in fact," says Chris. "It gets you into a lot of things, makes you more talkative and confident. I feel I'm somebody else when I'm on stage. I don't get scared but I get a wee adrenaline rush.

"It's the comedy I love and the dancing. The buzz of the comedy comes from just doing it and hearing everybody laughing. The thrill of the dancing comes through getting the timing right, so that your body knows what it's doing. When you're in the moment, you know it and you just keep moving and smiling.

"I'm training to be a chef at the moment but my ambition is to go to college to do acting. I began in the pantos by just being there and wanting to help out, but when I set foot on the stage I got the bug, and I just wanted to do it again.

"This is the best production so far, for me. I've been one of Fagan's gang in Oliver!, one of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan and Baron Hardup in Cinderella, as well as one of the brothers in Willy Russell's Blood Brothers. But this is the best so far.

"If I did become a professional actor, I'd quite like to do TV comedy a bit. But what I really love is entertaining people live."

Pupils review the latest crop of pantos

Original print headline: Curtain rises on another season of `energetic, colourful' panto

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Raymond Ross

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