“Be our guest at our new pantomime which promises to be filled with fun, adventure and laughter!”

They’re back – oh yes they are! The hugely popular team at Wicked Productions kicked off their 2022 panto last Friday at the EM Forster Theatre. Eileen Leahy finds out what Tom Swift and his team have up their sleeves to ensure audiences have a fabulously festive and fun time at their Beauty and the Beast show, which runs until January 2…


Wicked Productions triumphantly returned to the EM Forster Theatre in Tonbridge last weekend with their hilarious version of Beauty and the Beast.

Kicking off the seasonal festivities at the popular theatre, which is based at Tonbridge School, were Tom Swift who stars as Phillippe, Rhys Whiteside as Casanova and John Martin as Dame Derrière who are both back by popular demand. Mrs Tom Swift AKA Amanda plays Fairy Potts and pantomime legend Keith Higgins is appearing as Pip.

There are also some new recruits this year – which is something the Wicked team couldn’t be more delighted about.

“We are thrilled to introduce West End star Darren Tough as The Beast and Eilish Stout-Cairns as Princess Belle,” they told us before taking to the stage last Friday (December 9).

So what’s their spin on this classic 18th-century tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve which was popularised thanks to the 1991 Disney film?

Well, the action centres around a handsome prince who is cursed to spend
his life transformed into a hideous beast. Princess Belle, played by Eilish Stout-Cairns and the other characters live in the sleepy old French town of ‘Château de Toilet’. But can Belle and her mum – the ‘glamorous’ Dame Darcy Derrière’ and the village idiot Phillippe Philoppe – outwit the arrogant bully Clarence Casanova, and lift the curse? You’ll obviously have to go along between now and January 2 to find out…

The show promises audiences an exciting race against time filled with fun, adventure and laughter.

“With spectacular scenery, fabulous costumes, incredible special effects and bags of slapstick fun, Beauty and the Beast is a delight for all the family to enjoy,” continues the Wicked spokesperson.

Echoing one of the show’s popular songs they add: “So be our guest this Christmas! This year is the seventh year of Wicked doing panto at the EM Forster Theatre, and we’re delighted to be back on the Tonbridge stage.

“We’re back with a full cast of fantastic dancers, brilliant special effects and new leading cast members as Belle and The Beast. We can’t wait to bring all the laughter, fun and hilarity back for the festive season to our amazing audiences,” says Tom Swift of Wicked Productions between busy rehearsals. As well as starring in the show Tom is also directing and has written the script too!

EM Forster Theatre’s Kat Portman Smith says: “It is so great to be back to our full panto this year and we can’t wait to have our amazing ensemble cast of talented local children with us. This year’s hilarious show will be just the tonic that we all need!”

For tickets and timings for Beauty and the Beast, which is on at the EM Forster Theatre until January 2 visit: www.emftheatre.com


Nature of The Beast

West End star Darren Tough, who plays The Beast in Wicked’s new panto reveals why he’s so excited to be a part of the show…


This is your first year performing with Wicked Productions, how do you feel about joining the show this Christmas?

“I am very excited to be joining Wicked Productions at the EM Forster Theatre this Christmas. Beauty and the Beast is such a magical story, and I cannot wait to bring that to life for thousands of people this season!


You will be playing the Beast in this year’s pantomime, Beauty and the Beast. What do you love about this character and how will you put your own spin on it?

“The Beast is such an iconic character. I love the transition from a terrifying monster to someone who just wants to be loved. The way that people judge him based on his appearance is so sad, and I hope to bring across the frustrations and vulnerability he must feel. I have had lots of experience playing both the villain and the prince in panto over the years and this is a wonderful opportunity to explore both styles in the same role!”


What else can audiences expect from Beauty and the Beast this year?

“That it will be hilarious! Our fantastic cast is made up of wonderful comics and brilliant actors that will take you on a magical journey. There will be plenty of singing and dancing from our super talented ensemble too. It’s going to be spectacular!”


You have so much stage, film and TV experience under your belt. How will this help you develop the character for The Beast this year?

“I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to work in many areas of the arts over the years and it is great to have so many experiences to draw inspiration from. It will be wonderful to work with Tom in the capacity of our director, writer and our comic. This always ensures the cast have a real collaborative input into the characters and storytelling. The Beast is a very physical role, so getting his movements correct will be a big step (especially when you see the costume!). The voice will be the next step, bringing out the sound of The Beast but also the vulnerability of The Prince. I also have some songs to sink my teeth into, which will be lots of fun.”


What do you think makes panto so well loved among audiences?

“Panto is fun! It is such a release from normal life and allows audience members of all ages to escape and laugh for a couple of hours. It is such a delicate balancing act to really engross our youngest viewers with the story and have cheeky moments in there that keep the parents and family members chuckling. All in all, it is going to be a wonderful show and you are not going to want to miss it!”

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