Pantomime: Cinderella: The Sands Centre, Carlisle, 1995
The Donald Scott Show: West Walls Theatre, Carlisle 1997
I was born and brought up in Carlisle, Cumbria. The city will always be home. For many years, Carlisle’s local comedian was Donald Scott. Scott was very popular with Cumbrian audiences because he was excellent at local dialect and could speak ‘broad Carlisle’ which would feature heavily in his shows. The audience would regard Scott as one of their own and he was immediately on side when he appeared in public. During his career, he performed on local television and radio. I managed to see him live twice on stage.
I first saw him in the pantomime Cinderella at The Sands Centre in Carlisle in 1995 where he played one of the ugly sisters. Scott excelled in the role and the veteran comic would appear in pantomime for many years often playing the dame.
The West Walls Theatre in Carlisle is a small local theatre which is home to The Green Room Club. I have many happy memories of seeing excellent amateur productions of plays over the years there and to this day, the theatre still at its home on West Walls and is inviting audiences to see plays. When I was at school, I once was asked to help behind the scenes at the theatre. The production was to be Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which I was studying for my English Literature GCE O Level. The entire run of three performances were a disaster from me. I was asked by the director to ‘create rain’ for the forest scene. I went home and borrowed one of my mum’s saucepan and a packet of peas. On the opening night off stage, I rattled the saucepan full of peas and the effect was quite impressive. This went on right on cue until suddenly, the handle fell off the pan and the peas rolled on to the stage abruptly halting the performance with gasps from the audience. I then walked onto the stage in front of the audience and embarrassingly began to collect the peas off the stage. When I collected them all, I left the stage to my own footsteps with the actors looked at me in shock and then managed to continue from where they left off. On the last night, when the characters enter the forest, I had to hold and dangle a giant piece of forest made from twigs, branches and leaves unseen from above the stage. I had been doing this for all the performances and my arms had got very tired so much so that I accidently dropped the entire prop which landed on the stage mid-performance. Some actors tripped up, chaos ensued, and I was not asked back to help again!
In 1997 I saw Scott star in his own show at the West Walls Theatre in Carlisle. The venue is a small theatre but, on my night, the audience was packed. They lapped up Scott’s comedy sketches and songs and the show featured Scott’s memorable routine Over the Garden Wall where dressed as a local Carlisle woman, he would deliver comic monologues with his trademark Carlisle accent. I always like to think that the sketch was a nod in tribute to comedians Norman Evans and Les Dawson who did similar sketches in their shows.
Scott was a genuinely funny, warm, family man and never lost his local roots. When he died in 2011, his funeral was attended by hundreds of local people. I am glad to have seen the great comic entertainer perform on stage in my home city.