These panto characters are off to a flying start this Christmas

These panto characters are off to a flying start this Christmas

So, Tom, this year Wicked are taking on Peter Pan. Can you tell us a little bit about it please?

The last time we performed Peter Pan was the final performance at the beloved Royal Victoria Hall Theatre in Southborough back in 2014. With a rewrite and new routines it’s a really funny show, and I think one of our best. It’s such a great story and full of magic.

Are you phased that the Assembly Hall are also doing a version of Peter Pan?

I have a very close relationship with the Assembly Hall and have had the pleasure of producing our Easter shows there for many years. When deciding on Christmas productions, myself and the theatre manager do liaise with each other, but this year we just settled on the same production.

Hopefully, this won’t happen in the future, and we’re already planning different titles for next year. I wish them all the success with their run as I’m sure it will be great.

What are the fundamental differences between your
Peter Pan and theirs?          

Well, I’m not sure till I go see it, but I guess we have more local talent in ours with 90 per cent of the professional cast coming from Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area.

I don’t really want to compare our style of pantomime with theirs as we are both very different.

We aim to make our pantomimes a little more affordable for local people as we know Christmas can be a financial burden on some families.

Our scripts are very comedy driven as we love a funny show!

Tell us about your version of Peter Pan, and who’s in it

Our version fuses the original story with traditional pantomime.

We have a wonderful Dame, aka Michael Fenton Stevens, who is back for his third year and playing a saucy Pirate called Sea Dog Sally. He’s wonderful and we’re having a lot of fun in the rehearsal room. We also have a great baddie in Chris Ellison, playing Hook. He’s known for his film work and playing DI Burnside in the long-running TV series The Bill. We have some great comedy routines throughout the show and some epic musical numbers and special effects, including a giant crocodile. It really is a great script!

What do you like most about your partnership with local star Michael Fenton Stevens, who is also familiar from TV?

He just knows panto inside out. With his experience in comedy it’s just easy. He knows what I’m thinking on stage and is always up for improvising when things go wrong. We really do work so well together and I love him dearly.

Tell us a little bit about your character, Smee…

Well, in our version he isn’t too much of a baddie. I can’t give anything away, but he might help in some way to defeat Captain Hook. It’s a great fun part and I get to be very silly in this one.

What attracted you to doing this particular pantomime?

Who doesn’t love a story about not growing up and being a child forever and having fun?

It has great ingredients for
panto – silly pirates, a fantastic baddie
and a flying hero
in tights.

Are there any big challenges involved in staging it?

So many! It’s the most technical show we do and takes a long time to rehearse all those aspects
of the show.

We have also built new scenery and effects and repainted everything ready for this season.

Do you still try and weave in a little current news angle or two into the script, and if so does this mean you’re editing up to the wire?

We do have references to some big news articles from this year – you’ll have to come and see to find out what they are…

Do you adapt and update your script throughout the run?

Every single time, yes. Improving our shows and making them more current for our fantastic audiences is a must-do for us.

What do you think your audiences will enjoy most about seeing your version of Peter Pan?

The comedy! We always get families getting in touch saying they all had tears of laughter throughout and that we made their Christmas!

If you could sum up this year’s show in three words, what would they be?

Our best yet!

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