Niall getting in the panto groove

Niall McVeigh.
Niall McVeigh.

Local para-badminton world champion Niall McVeigh is ditching his shorts and racquet in favour of a costume and a microphone next month.

The Poyntzpass man’s off to Croydon’s Ashcroft Theatre where he’ll be playing the role of Groovy the dwarf in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

No, you’re right, Groovy didn’t make the original cut, but then Gareth Gates wasn’t in the first script either. He’ll be starring alongside Niall as Prince Charming.

“I don’t know too much about it at the minute but I’ll head over next week and I’ll have two weeks of rehearsals to make sure I know all my lines,” said the 24 year-old local man.

“I think it’s a fairly similar script to last year, when I took part in the Snow White panto in Carlisle. I was Cheeky the dwarf that time and it was really good fun so I’m looking forward to doing it again.

“Maureen Nolan of the Nolan Sisters was the Wicked Queen last year and she was very nice.

“It’s just really nice to get over there and do something different and meet some new people.”

It’s all a totally different world to Niall’s usual habitat, the badminton court, where he has won world titles and is the current world number one.

He says, though, that his sport is benefitting from his spells on the stage.

“I was a bit low on self-confidence and had been trying various things,” he said. “Then my friend was telling me about doing the pantos and so I decided I would give it a go last year and that was it.

“It has definitely helped me with my confidence and that’s all a big help when I come back to the badminton.”

Next month, Niall will be acting alongside two of his greatest sporting rivals in England duo Andrew Martin and Krysten Coombs, both of whom he beat on his way to victory in the Irish leg of the Four Nations series last weekend. Although their acting schedules will be chock-a-block next month, Niall is keen to make sure his badminton doesn’t suffer.

“After the rehearsals, we move into about five weeks of shows,” he said. “We have Mondays off and a couple of days round Christmas but apart from that we have two shows every day.

“The rehearsals are pretty flat out but once we get into the shows, it’s not too bad. I’ll still be keeping up my training. During the shows we’ll definitely be trying to get over to the courts.”

The panto will run from 5 December to January 4 next year.