THE curtain rises tonight, Thursday, on a much loved tradition that has spread Christmas jollity throughout the Burgh for decades.

“Oh yes it is”...the opening night of Helensburgh Theatre Arts’ latest pantomime, Jock and the Beanstalk, in the Victoria Halls.

In keeping with the madcap antics served up by the arts group every Christmas, audiences are again guaranteed heaps of slapstick calamities, gags galore and fast-paced action, as well as colourful costumes and music.

The production team includes long-standing members who have featured prominently in past pantos and who know how to have the Helensburgh audience rolling in the aisles.

This year, the director is Louise Press, who has been involved with the Theatre Arts for 20 years, starting as part of the chorus for a few years, then being given principal roles.

Another familiar face is Derek Bannon, who first got involved by writing scripts and who has played the Panto Dame many times.

Louise said: “I asked Derek last year to write me a pantomime script as I had agreed to direct this year and he came up with Jock and the Beanstalk. This year has been quite challenging with some of the principals pulling out for various reasons, so a few characters had to be re-cast and are still at school.

“I also did the choreography in the past, but when I was asked to direct, I handed the reins over to Danielle Pearson who has been marvellous to work with.

“Nina Rapallini, who is also playing my side kick Dodem in the panto, is the most amazing creative person I know. Not only does she make props and sets but she also makes costumes. She is worth her weight in gold and is a great asset to the group.

“Along with the senior chorus, we also have a wonderful junior chorus made up of primary age pupils ranging from P1 to P7.

“Our musical director this year is Lesley Stewart, who has worked hard with the cast teaching the songs.

“Last but not least, we couldn’t have a panto without our fabulous backstage crew and light and sound man.”

Jock and the Beanstalk tells how Jock and his mum, Dame Senga, are being evicted for not paying rates by the nasty Queen Domm. The slightly dim King Domm has no idea and decides to employ Senga as the palace cook.

Jock falls in love with Princess Megan and her aid Looby is being pursued by the court herald Tarquin.

Louise said no panto would be complete without a pair of idiots and this year they had Hodem and Dodem the local Fuzz. Fairy Lampwick, Wizard Woz, Fairy Queen and the Evil Witch are other characters who will appear on stage along with panto cow Halfcream.

The cast is: Dame Senga, Elliot Howie; Jock, Isla Sanderson; Princess Megan, Lauren Hendry; Hodem, Louise Press; Dodem, Nina Rapallini; Tarquin, Bradley Trail; Looby, Katriona Lowther; Wicked Witch, Loren Mackie; King Domm, Jordan Sharkey; Queen Domm, Jemma Doherty; Fairy Lampwick, Christy Morrison; Wizard Woz, TJ Kennedy; Fairy Queen, Ciara O’Neill; panto cow Halfcream, Ethan Lane and Cara Robertson, who are also part of the senior chorus.

Jock and the Beanstalk runs from December 6 to 8. Tickets are on sale at the Victoria Halls.