Pig out with a comedy musical

BUDDING performers at a city school are to put on a rare show at one of Glasgow's top theatres.

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Verity Power as Princess Elizabeth, Christopher Foley as Prince Phillip, Gemma Jones as Joyce Chilvers and Aidan Harkins as Gilbert Chilvers, and left, the puppet 'star' of the show, Betty Blue Eyes. Pictures: Kirsty Anderson
Verity Power as Princess Elizabeth, Christopher Foley as Prince Phillip, Gemma Jones as Joyce Chilvers and Aidan Harkins as Gilbert Chilvers, and left, the puppet 'star' of the show, Betty Blue Eyes. Pictures: Kirsty Anderson

The group of 33 teenagers from the Dance School of Scotland are preparing for their performance of Betty Blue Eyes at the Citizens Theatre.

Adapted from Alan Bennett's screenplay for the 1984 comedy film A Private Function, starring Michael Palin, the musical has never been seen in Scotland before.

The performance will mark the school's 30th anniversary this year, and the 15th anniversary of the Musical Theatre Course run by the institution.

Set in Yorkshire, the play tells the tale of post-war England in 1947 and features chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers, his social-climbing wife Joyce - and Betty the adorable pig, which causes havoc as the townsfolk prepare for a feast to celebrate the wedding of Princess Elizabeth.

Artistic Director Graeme Dickie, who has been responsible for directing and organising the show, said the budding actors, who are all aged between 16-18, are, "delighted to have got Betty Blue Eyes because this new version of the show hasn't been shown in Scotland before.

"It's such a great show, and it's had a bit of a rewrite and a change here and there."

Pupils studying at the dance school, which is part of Glasgow's Knightswood Secondary, have to undergo auditions to gain entry into the prestigious centre before they are put through their paces in preparation for a career on stage.

Many of them had to have puppetry training ahead of tonight's performance, helping them to operate Betty the pig which was custom-made and bought by the school.

"The professional tour is actually going on in England as we speak, so I was amazed that we were given permission to do it." said Graeme, who has been preparing for the show for weeks.

"From my point of view as a director, it's really exciting to be able to put your stamp on basically a new piece, and for the kids its great because it's a really good show for them - it's a big show with over 40 characters in it and the music is terrific too.

"The pupils have really bought into the whole thing which is fantastic,

"It's very funny but it's also very true to 1947."

This is the Dance School of Scotland's 11th season at the Citizens, and the experience helps to give the pupils a taste of what it's like to work professionally.

"With us being the national school, this is probably the closest the pupils will get to working in a completely professional environment" said Graeme.

"The only thing that is not professional about the show is the actual performers.

"When they go on from us to whichever colleges they go to, the stage crew will be students, possibly the directors, everyone will be going through the learning process, so for them working with professional lighting, orchestra, stage management and my team of staff, it is the closest they will get until they walk into their first job."

Kay Dingwall, Head Teacher of Knightswood Secondary said:" The vision shown 30 years ago to maximise the potential of Scotland's young dancers, and later musical theatre talents, by bringing them together to learn from inspirational professionals, has been more than justified.

"For a small country to be recognised for producing world class artistic talent from this school is quite wonderful.

"The hard work demonstrated daily by our young people and staff leaves no-one in any doubt about how important it was to secure the national status of the Dance School at Knightswood for future generations."

Sixth year pupils Sam Willison, 18, from Erskine and Mari McGinlay, 18, from Falkirk, who recently won top places in the prestigious Young Scottish Musical Theatre Performer (SYMTP) of the Year contest will both be appearing.

l Betty Blue Eyes opens tonight at runs until Saturday at the Citizens Theatre. For more information or tickets visit www.citz.co.uk/whatson/info/betty_blue_eyes

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