Gaelic Pantomime starts three week tour

Dolina Ross of Karate Alba with the cast
Dolina Ross of Karate Alba with the cast

A fifteen-day national tour of a new Gaelic language pantomime Anna Bheag a’ Chòta Dheirg has begun this week in Glasgow and will tour to the Western Isles, starting in Barra on December 4th. Performances of the panto will also take place in South and North Uist, Benbecula, Harris and Lewis.

The panto is a reimagining of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy-tale, featuring Calum MacDonald, MJ Deans and Ellen MacDonald.

This is the tenth successive year that Fèisean nan Gàidheal has produced and toured a Gaelic language pantomime for children in Gaelic-medium education and this year’s tour will run from November 27th to December 15th taking the play to more than 2,500 young Gaelic speakers across the country.

Angus Macleod, Drama Officer with Fèisean nan Gàidheal explained: “Some schools were disappointed that we were not able to visit them last year due to travel constraints.

“This year we have enlisted the help of Hebridean Air Services to get the actors to Islay and Tiree on Friday 1st December to ensure we cover as many schools as possible where Gaelic medium education is offered.”

In the Western Isles leg of the tour it is expected that pupils from more than 40 schools are expected to see the play.

The pantomime, supported by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Creative Scotland and HIE, was written and directed by Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s Drama Officer Angus Macleod, with set design by Kenneth Macleod and costume design by Laura Cowie. Musical direction was provided by Eilidh Mackenzie.

Angus Macleod said: “The play updates the traditional Little Red Riding Hood story and gives it a martial arts twist.

“The three experienced actors bring lots of fun and energy to their roles and the audience interaction will make this an engaging and enjoyable experience for children and adults alike.

“Anna Bheag and her mother, the original Little Red Riding Hood, have taken up karate to defend themselves against attack from wolves in the enchanted forest.

“The team is grateful for the expert guidance of karate black belt, Dolina Ross, of Inverness-based Karate Alba. During rehearsals she taught the actors some exciting karate moves which feature in the play.”

Daibhidh Boag, Bòrd na Gàidhlig Director of Language Planning and Community Development said: “Bòrd na Gàidhlig is delighted to support Fèisean nan Gàidheal and the new Gaelic pantomime as it tours throughout Scotland bringing pleasure to young Gaelic speakers in a fun and entertaining way.

“Fèisean nan Gàidheal has a proven track record in the production of quality drama and it is particularly pleasing to see that the panto this year will be able to reach out to schools in some areas which have previously missed out.”

All three actors in Anna Bheag a’ Chòta Dheirg have appeared in previous Gaelic pantomimes produced by Fèisean nan Gàidheal.

The wolf is played by Calum MacDonald, well-known as a presenter on BBC Alba’s Dè a-nis?.

He appeared last year in the Dundee Rep’s production of The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil.

MJ Deans, who has recently finished touring Rocket Post with the National Theatre of Scotland, plays the mother and great-grandmother.

Anna Bheag is played by Ellen MacDonald, a singer with Dàimh and Sian. She is also well-known for her role as Kirsty in BBC Alba’s Bannan.

This is Ellen’s third tour for Fèisean nan Gàidheal this year; she has already performed in the early years theatre project Hùb Hàb and alongside Calum in Teàrlach Fo Chasaid (Charlie in the Dock), a theatre-in-education project about Bonnie Prince Charlie.