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Meeting the 2015 panto stars of Sussex

PUBLISHED: 11:50 15 December 2015 | UPDATED: 11:54 15 December 2015

The cast of Beauty and the Beast, The Capitol, Horsham

The cast of Beauty and the Beast, The Capitol, Horsham

Archant

The pantomime is a very British tradition. From now until mid-January, thousands of families will flock to Sussex theatres to join in the fun. Kate Eastman met some of the leading ladies and gents and found out how they will be spending Christmas

At the Pavilion Theatre Worthing is Cinderella, the classic fairy tale of a beautiful girl forced to serve her jealous stepsisters. Her journey to find Prince Charming is aided by the silly but lovable Buttons and a benevolent Fairy Godmother. Camilla Dallerup of Strictly Come Dancing fame is the Fairy Godmother, Cara Dudgeon plays Cinderella, Matt Evers from Dancing on Ice is Prince Charming and Mark Read, from Nineties boy band A1, is Dandini.

“I grew up in Denmark near the sea so it was quite an easy choice when I was asked if I wanted to come to Worthing,” says Camilla Dallerup. “I didn’t grow up with pantomime and when my husband took me I thought ‘this is the best thing ever!’ I think we have a big job to make sure the children enjoy themselves because it’s such a big wonderful tradition.

“The ugly sisters are definitely more scary than the Strictly Come Dancing judges, they frighten the life out of me and they keep saying they want to give me beauty tips.”

Mark Read says “The audience really fuels the actors on stage to give them a different kind of performance, and I just love being able to do that in front of a live crowd every day. I love panto, it’s a great British tradition and I have been to one every year of my life, thanks to my granddad buying the family tickets.

“This is going to be a really special panto: very traditional and great for the whole family, with a lot of comedy, some big songs and some great dancers. For me there was a lot of appeal not just because of the great location but the great cast as well.”

Matt Evers from Dancing on Ice explains: “I get nervous before every show, performing before 10 million people on the television is very different to performing to 1,000 people live. You kind of forget the cameras are there, but when you hear kids yelling, screaming and cheering for the panto it all becomes worthwhile. I hope to get to dance with Camilla as it’s the first time Dancing on Ice has met Strictly Come Dancing. I’m really excited and I really hope we get to choreograph something together.

“My favourite Christmas tradition dates back to my grandfather’s farm in Minnesota. That is where I got my first pair of ice skates and one Christmas when I was nine, my cousin and I woke up to find my grandfather had flooded one of the back pastures and had made us our own private ice rink. That’s really where I started skating and that’s why I owe my entire career to him.”

The traditional family pantomime playing at the Capitol Theatre in Horsham is Beauty and the Beast. Writer, producer and director Nick Mowat describes it as “a highly entertaining show full of songs and laughter with a good helping of plot. All of our characters have their own story and although good will always triumph over bad, there is an opportunity to get a few moral points across as well.”

Karina Hind, who plays Beauty, says: “The joy of this job is going out there and making people happy, I love working in panto. I will be working at Christmas but I’m lucky in that Portsmouth isn’t that far away so I’m just going to go home and see my family on Christmas Day. My favourite memory is putting out my stocking on Christmas Eve and putting the mince pies out [for Father Christmas] – I still do it now!”

Beast, played by Tom Senior, says the camaraderie between the cast is great. “The whole rehearsal process is really good fun. This panto for me is going to be different because of the costume I’ll be wearing. Playing this character means I have to wear a very warm suit. It’s hard to see out of the mask so it will be interesting to see if I bump into anything!”

For nearly 70 years St Mary’s Pantomime has been delighting audiences in Lewes. This year the company is staging Robin Hood, a traditional pantomime with a principal boy who’s really a girl, a dame who’s a man and all the elements that go towards making up a ‘proper’ production. Andy Freeman stars as the Sheriff of Nottingham, who says: “I’ve been involved with St Mary’s Panto since 1979 with only one year off when my daughter, Lucy, was born in 1984, arriving during a matinee of Cinderella. I hung up my Dame’s bra in 2013, but I’m still performing and this year I’m looking forward to being directed by my son, Tom.

I love being the baddie and in Robin Hood, that’s the Sheriff of Nottingham. We pitch our scripts at all levels and gags range from the basic slapstick to the carefully delivered risqué comments and jokes that set the adults chuckling, but go over the heads of the kids.

“My son and daughter will be with us Christmas Day and this year my one-year-old granddaughter will no doubt be the centre of attention. Boxing Day will be a trip up to see the Hunt, followed by a pint or three of Harveys Old.

“When I was very young, we used to gather at the family home on Mill Plain above Glyndebourne. My grandfather dressed as Father Christmas. There was no electricity, lighting was by gaslight and heat came from log fires. The smell of those fires and the tradition of having pressies in the evening as the men were out on Christmas morning attending to farming duties are still an essential part of my family celebrations.”

• Cinderella - Pavilion Theatre, Worthing. Ticket prices from £13, shows from Friday 4 December to Sunday 3 January

• Beauty and the Beast - The Capitol, Horsham. Ticket prices from £10, shows from Friday 11 December to Sunday 3 January

• Robin Hood - St Mary’s Theatre, Lewes. Ticket prices adults £9 and children £5, from Saturday 9 January performing 10 shows between then and Saturday 16 January.


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