AN IMMERSIVE whale scene impressed judges to bag a nationally-recognised award for the Wootton Bassett Light Operatic Society.

The society won the Achievement Award for the South West from the National Operatic and Drama Association for its 2018 production of Pinocchio - the first time it has won the accolade since it began 42 years ago.

Director Hay Blake, who played the whale that swallows Pinocchio's father Geppetto, told the Adver: “It was the teamwork that was shown throughout, and the technical elements, such as the scene with the whale’s tummy.

“Then when the whale swallowed them the whole stage turned into a stomach with a rib cage and everything. It was quite something.

“I couldn’t ask anyone else to do it because it was a great big creature so I ended up in the whale.

"It was overall the best production that the rep had ever seen WBLOS do, those were her words."

In the panto the whale was called Wally and TK McCue, a 60-year-old actor, played the fairy-tale wooden puppet Pinocchio who eventually turns into a real boy by the end of the story.

The 13-strong cast of amateur and experienced actors, some with hidden talents, meant they could create the added effect of being inside the whale and wow the judges with sound effects which echoed.

"One of our members is quite the sculptor and she made a whale costume," added Hay, "I was head to foot in whale.

“That was the first time I’d directed anything for WBLOS, so I’m chuffed.

“I love panto, you can have fun. And you can try things you can’t get away with in a musical.

"You can improvise to a degree, and you have a bit more free reign with it."

WBLOS's next production is Learner & Lowes My Fair Lady. It opens this weekend, April 25-27, at the Royal Wootton Bassett Memorial Hall. For tickets go to or RWB post office.