Posted by: christinelaennec | April 28, 2012

Thank you, Mary Torphins

Last week Michael and I had the chance to go to a matinee performance of this year’s Student Show, Mary Torphins.  As always, we had a great time and a good laugh.  It was in the beautiful His Majesty’s Theatre:

At the panto (Jack and the Beanstalk), His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, Dec 2011

The student show has been on the go since 1921, and didn’t even miss a year during WWII.  Since we came to Aberdeen 20 years ago, we’ve been to as many as we could go to and have enjoyed them all.  It’s always a satire comedy musical, written and performed by local student talent from Aberdeen College, the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon’s University.  The standard of writing and performing is always amazingly high.  And all the money raised goes to local charities, as part of the Aberdeen Students’ Charities Campaign.  Last year Sleepless in Seaton raised £56,000 – no small amount!

You will guess that this year’s show was a take-off of P.L. Travers’ famous creation, Mary Poppins.  Her Aberdonian name comes from a small village on Deeside called Torphins – where Michael and I went to the grocery-store-in-the-church.  In Mary Torphins, we meet the Hill family who need a new nanny.  Mr. Brimmond Hill is a local councillor; his wife Rose Hill is a rabble-rouser demonstrating to save the rare ginger beaver against the Council’s plan for a golf course, and their two children are Summer Hill and Kirk Hill.  The head of the council is the evil Countess Wells.  All these names are place names in Aberdeen, needless to say.  Mary’s sidekick is a scaffie (rubbish collector) named Dick Van Donald.  At the moment when Brimmond Hill realises he has alienated his family and probably lost his job as well – having not allowed his children to give money to the Big Issue seller outside Markies – order is restored.  Countess Wells is fired by her paymaster, Donald Trump.

With local elections taking place next week, and Donald Trump mounting a huge personal campaign against all wind turbines in Scotland, the audience really enjoyed the chance to have a good laugh.  My very favourite part was the finale, when we had the Doric (local dialect) version of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious:

Aye, aye, fit like?  Foos’ yer doo’s?  Ye ken fit like, aye peckin.
Understood in toon and forty mile aroon I reckon.
People south of Forfar though, might find it quite perplexin
Aye aye, fit like?  Foo’s yer doo’s?  Ye ken fit like, aye peckin!

The Um-tiddle-iddle-iddle part was:  Ken fit ah’m on aboot, ken fit ah mean?

The translation is roughly:  Hi there, how are you?  How are you doing? [literally, how are your pigeons?] You know how it goes, I’m fine [they’re still pecking] / Understood in town and for forty miles around, I reckon… And:  Do you know what I’m on about, do you know what I mean?

The line that had me laugh til I cried was at the very end, where Mary Torphins remarks, “Or you can say it backwards, which is nick-ep-eya-kile-tif-nek-ey-sood-rey-soof-ekil-tif-eya-eya!”

Thank you, Student Show, once again.  We had a great time out.

For anyone who is in Aberdeen today, this evening is the annual fundraising Torcher Parade in town.  The students will be making floats all day long today and the route will be lined by young and old ready to throw their pennies into the buckets that come around.  I will confess to having been in the Torcher parade my first four years in Aberdeen, when I was studying Gaelic.  I had a wonderful time.  The fourth year I was one of the torchbearers and wore a costume from a shop – bit of a cheat!  I was dressed as Snow White.  A few weeks later we adopted our son, who was nearly four.  When he saw the photo of me from the parade, he said gravely, “I never want you to dress up as Snow White again!”  And indeed, I never have.



  1. Sounds like a ‘hoot’. The medics at the university where I worked, used to put on a review every year. I think the material was of a fairly ribald nature, but very popular, all the same.

  2. I love the supercalifragilistic song and have got ‘ken fit ah’m on aboot, ken fit ah mean’ going round my head now. Inspired writing!

  3. Fantastic post Christine, really enjoyed it.

  4. Sitting here in Oxford while the rain pours down outside, I’m lost in nostalgia. The names of the characters are making me laugh, too.

  5. It sounds like a lot of fun and engaging for the audience! The theater looks beautiful, too. They must be a very successful Troupe to raise so much money! I haven’t been to a college play since my son dated a girl who acted, and guess what her name was – Summer! xx

  6. Glad to hear that the student show is going strong. There’s nothing quite like ‘afftakin’ Aberdonian wit.
    A suitably cold night for the Torcher, then! I remember freezing in a very skimpy outfit on the French Society float. I don’t think I would dare show my children any of the photos. I’m sure you looked lovely as Snow White, but I can understand your son being a bit alarmed at your transformation.

  7. Dear all,

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it – I just wish you could have come along!

    Martin – the student show is advertised as for “teens and adults” and there was a fair amount of innuendo. I leave it to you to imagine the mileage they got out of the whole ginger beaver storyline!

    Lorna – it’s still going around (roon) my head, a week later!

    Jill – so glad you enjoyed it, especially as you’ve not had the funnest week ever.

    Flora – glad it made you laugh. As Lorna said, it was inspired writing.

    Karen – the theatre is indeed a beauty. It was opened in 1906 and completely refurbished for its 100th birthday so is very beautiful. As for the troupe, it is a different one every year. They only held auditions a month before the show! Such youth and energy and talent. Funny that your son’s girlfriend was Summer!

    Linda – I thought of you when someone said to me today, “It was freezing last night – because it was the night of the Torcher”. There is a strange inevitability about it. But although it was literally near freezing, it was dry, which is not always the case. Tell you what, we can swap quick peeks of one another’s Torcher photos someday! (I was also dressed as a nun one year, and as a Roman fighting the Picts another year – can’t quite remember the third and no I don’t drink…)

  8. Hi,

    One of the cast members aka Dick Van Donald came across this blog and shared it with us, I think on the behalf of all of us we would like to say Thank You for a lovely post.

    We are affa glad you thought the show wis rare!

    Rhianne xx

    • Dear Rhianne (or should I say Norma?)
      I’m so delighted that you found my post and thus our thanks for a fabulous time. We’re already looking forward to next year’s show! Very warm wishes to you all –

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