THE future of one of the Lothians’ biggest and most successful panto groups has been thrown into doubt after its leaders decided to step down.
North Berwick Panto has directed hundreds of children in performances of classics such as Cinderella and Aladdin since it was started by Steve Dalgleish and a team of fellow theatre enthusiasts 20 years ago.
The amateur group has also raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity and many of its charges have gone on to pursue acting careers.
Now organisers have decided to bring in new blood – but they admit the move has created uncertainty and could mean the amateur group does not survive in its current form.
Steve, 54, who leads a five-strong team of volunteers, including Fringe By The Sea organiser Eric Wales as music director, said: “We just do not know what will happen now. None of us want it to stop but we want someone else to take up the reins and do something different.
“Of course, we would not want this to happen but it could revert back to the local ‘town show’ which it was originally and from which North Berwick Panto emerged.
“The town show was much more amateurish – it was a one-night thing and ran for about an hour and a half. There weren’t even microphones.”
North Berwick Panto, which directs up to 150 children of all ages for each of its annual shows, made its name through a series of ambitious productions with pyrotechnics, lasers and giant sets including a home-made beanstalk-and-pumpkin carriage.
Organisers have confirmed this year’s production of Cinderella – echoing the group’s inaugural performance of the same folk tale two decades ago – will be the last to be directed by the current group of leaders.
Steve, an self-employed online data analyst, said feeling among organisers over the decision to stand down was mixed.
He said: “I will miss it – what we create each year is quite brilliant.
“We don’t get any money or pay, but the pride we feel in what the children achieve is palpable and the feedback we get from the people who see it is absolutely fantastic.
“We’re all hopeful that people hearing about this will think it sounds like the kind of thing they might like to try and they’ll take over.”