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First Day At School!

November 28, 2011

Well, after a very long time preparing, the birth of another Pantomime is just around the corner. A year ago it was Beanstalks, and now it is Pagodas as Aladdin rehearsals began today!

Back in Twankeys wardrobe the costumes are packed, and awaiting collection. I’ve trimmed back this year so I’m only taking with me One Dress Rail, Two large Wicker Skips, a Table and a large costume box. The box came with the costumes I bought in the auction of Danny La Rue’s collection a while back,  and I like the thought of it travelling back and forth around the country just as it used to. One of the Wicker skips has “Moss Empires” stamped on it, so that too has seen some panto journeys! All these will be collected by Rory at Qdos on Sunday, to arrive at The Venue Cymru the following day.

             

So, with the fourteen costume changes sorted, and a few home comforts added to the skip- the all important furry rug and pillow for the between show “Nana Nap”, the script notated and highlighted, it’s time for the rehearsal day. It has come around amazingly fast this year!

MEET THE CAST

delightful thing about this year’s rehearsal venue is that it is literally half an hour away on public transport. I set off an hour and a quarter early today, and spent the first fifty minutes stationary- in limbo, a packed commuter train, no open windows and no doubt “leaves on the line”, dashing into rehearsals with about a minute to spare! No frappacappucinno for me sadly. Hey ho.

I have to say, after so many years of often working with the same cast, it is a strange feeling walking into a room full of stranger even if they soon will  become  new panto friends and family- I didn’t know a soul, and I think for everyone it is very much “the first day at school”.

Jason Gardiner- our Abanazar I had met before. We chatted about the fact that a year ago it was Jason who brought the “This Morning” Television team to look at life backstage at Dartford “Jack & The Beanstalk”, and little did he or I know we’d be on board the Aladdin Express this year together!

Jason of course is the judge on “Dancing On Ice” among his many projects, but has an impressive back catalogue of theatre, musical and West End credits to his name. This might be his first pantomime, but it is most certainly not his first theatrical enterprise- he’s been there and done it many times and oft!

There is a definate Welsh element to this year’s panto- which is as should be when playing Gwalia- I’m a Mumbles boy from Swansea, and our Aladdin, Marc Mulcahey hails from South Wales as well, as does The Emperor Of All China (obviously) played by Tim Morgan. Our Deputy Stage Manager Lisa Mair Briddon hails from North Wales, so the Principality is well served!We are looked after with great care by our Company Stage Manager, Rachael Presdee. I think I’ll find myself slipping into the old accent more and more as each day passes!

 

                  

 

The lovely Princess Of China is played by Lucy May Barker, and the seductive Scheherazade by Rebecca Parker.The Chief Of Police is Michael Anderson. My other son, Wishee Washee is played by Liverpudlian John Evans who is celebrating his fifth season at Llandudno, and has just arrived back from a cruise liner where he has been entertaining.

A shorter cruise was taken by our Director, Simon Delaney who arrived from his native Ireland on the Holyhead ferry, and the joys of motoring through North Wales and down to London for the start of rehearsals. Our Musical Director is one of several Matts, if you’ll pardon the expression- we have three Matts at least- MD Matt Smith, Lighting Designer Matt Eagland and our Choreographer, Matt Cole.

Said hello to Matt and the six ensemble very briefly, as they leave us to work in the big hall- the absolutely enormous hall recently vacated by the RSC doing “Hamlet”. Its not a panto I’ve heard about before this Hamlet thing, apparently there’s a Dame- Gertie her name is I think, and a good Ghost Gag…

Talking of posh players, the lift in our sumptuous rehearsal studios- the finest I have personally been in since The TR2 in Plymouth- appears to have persuaded Patrick Stewart to “voice” the lift. Those beautiful articulated tones announcing “Fourth Floor” are a pleasure to listen to!

The large room next door to our rehears room is now filled with the familiar blue Qdos wardrobe boxes. Already hard at work sorting through them is our Wardrobe Mistress, Elly Tattersall, who I have had the pleasure of meeting many times in the past, and her assistant Charlotte Jobson. The room was crammed with Black and Gold glittery costumes (the finale I’d presume) and a set of Lilac costumes that might be for the fabulous cave scene. I love “Aladdin” if only for the best costumes in Pantoland.

The morning was spent having a read through- starting with the chairs in a circle introducing ourselves. “My name is Nigel and I am a Pantoholic.. Hello Nigel!…” that kind of thing, followed by a read-through. That took until lunch, and then John (Wishee) Simon (Director) and myself retired to a pub- for work purposes and a cola, and that’s the truth! To look at a bit of re-jigging of script. In breaks during the afternoon John and I continued with that and had a jolly time being creative in a pencil-sucking “do your essay” kind of way.

Simon cracked his directorial whip, and we blocked all of Act One by the end of the day. I had a brief session with Matt (Music) Smith croaking out some numbers- poor soul he managed not to look too pained.. and by 6pm the day was over, and it was back on the tube.

So- the panto train has got passengers, and is starting to leave the station. Tomorrow we get to go in “The Big Room” I believe – certainly the largest rehearsal space I have ever seen, and we’ll do a run of the Act One we did today before moving on.

Somewhere in the lower depths of our rehearsal space I heard the dulcit Aussie tones of one Dame Edna Everage! The First Family Wimbledon Panto is rehearsing here too- we’ve yet to bump into them, but the week is young. Just follow the trail of Gladioli I guess!

Right. Lines to learn. Tea to drink. Nos Da as we say in Wales!

 

From → Aladdin 2011/12

One Comment
  1. Terry Powell permalink

    You just can’t beat a Moss Empires wicker skip ( trust it was black stencilled lettering! ) they don’t make them like that any more!
    Have fun!
    Terry

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