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First Day at School- The Wycombe Way

November 28, 2017

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The first day at Panto Hogwarts- it starts at Marylebone Station in London which, to be fair, has the same charm as Platform nine and three quarters at King’s Cross, if not more so! High Wycombe is a half hour train journey from central London, but in my case it would involve four trains and a journey time of one and a half hours each way- no broomsticks involved either.

So- I’ll be staying in a hotel near Earls Court – along with some panto chums from Nottingham Panto, and training it up to The Swan Wycombe this week, and then moving into a Wycombe hotelll the following week when we get into Technical and Dress rehearsals.

Not a bad walk from the station- brings back memories of ten years ago when I was here with Peter Robbins in “Cinderella”. Fond memories.


Readers of the Green Room on IBY will have seen the Press Day we did here at Wycombe, and possibly watched the disgusting “Bean- Boozled” game with nasty flavoured jelly beans we took part in!

Delighted to be back in Pantoland with Ashleigh, Simon, and Penny, Ashleigh’s mum who looks after two beautiful furry cast members backstage this season- Sully and Eliza! Sully of course took part in last year’s Derngate pantomime, and joined Pudsey in a routine or two.

Before we even started rehearsals, Ashleigh & Sully were hard at work in the early morning appearing on Good Morning Britain!

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Sadly this year Pudsey passed away, and our hearts went out to Ashleigh and her family. Sully is his own dog and has a gleam of fun in his eye (his eyes are different colours!) and we look forward to a very jolly time! I am giving my Dame Trott as I did last year, and I’m Nigel Ellacott!

So, we have Ashleigh Butler as Princess with Sully and Eliza, Simon Webbe as my son Jack, and we are delighted to be joined by my mate Chris Jarvis of CBBC fame “Show Me Show Me”.

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Chris is not only playing my other son, Simple Simon, he is our Director, and will be joined by Katherine Iles our Choreographer.

Every panto has a baddie, and this season we are joined by Jo Parsons as Fleshcreep battling the Spirit of The Beans played by Leah Godbold.

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Katherine will be working in a separate hall with our Ensemble of four ladies and two gents- we have Sarah Owen, Ediz Ibrahim, Mim Maley, Megan Jupp, Oliver Hacker and India Thornton.

Our Music Director is Barney Ashworth. He will be with us through the rehearsals on piano, and once we get towards tech rehearsal he will be joined by Elliot Mason on Bass, and Toby Goodman on percussion.

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Our Company Stage Manager is Nicola Candlish who I had the pleasure of working with in “Jack & The Beanstalk” in The Grand Wolverhampton a few years back.

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Our production team includes Lisa Cochrane DSM, Steve Andrew, Technical ASM, Laura Lear, ASM Book Cover.

This season our Wardrobe Mistress is Clare Freeman.

Our young dancers- the “Juveniles” are from the Jackie Palmer Stage School.

So- we are all assembled- some of us already know each other, and some of us are total strangers. Something very magical happens now, and, if Panto rehearsals run true to form, like the camp mates (no comment!) in “I’m A Celebrity”, we will have bonded by mid week, be the BFF by the opening night and remain facebook friends far into the future! I’m pretty good at crystal gazing, and this looks like a great bunch of people to spend twice daily with!

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Just as ten years ago, we are rehearsing in the Oak Paneled “Oak Room” at the Town Hall, next door to the Swan Theatre. It is a bit like reheasing in an ante room at Downton Abbey but instead of Dame Maggie Smith we have Dame Trott!

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We all met up for a half hour social coffee and buns kind of time,and were welcomed to the venue by David Mansfield the Theatre Director. Coffee over the script opened at the beginning, with Chris at the helm .

During the morning Chris took us through the blocking of the first four or five scenes. The dancers are now working with Katherine in the dance studio in the town. We will be meeting up with the “Babes” or “Juveniles” tomorrow in the Town Hall.

Lunch was in a cafe in the town, followed by Chris plotting/blocking the rest of Act one. By 6pm He has effectively plotted Act One on day one. That’s what you can call a great start!

I headed back to London on the train- journey easier than arriving in rush hour this morning, and arrived at the hotel just in time to join some panto mates in a catch up, and get to hear how the rehearsals for Manchester and Nottingham are going in nearby Fulham.Cue a fun evening with Andrew Ryan, Sherrie Hewson, The Krankies- Ian and Janette and Ben Nickless


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