Roll out the carpet - Aladdin at the Hexagon
December 07, 2006
Recognised nationally as one of the best panto dames in the business, Christopher Lillicrap is the man behind the Proper Pantomime Company.
The company is putting on Aladdin at The Hexagon this year and Christopher is playing Widow Twankey.
He is an ex-children’s TV presenter and children’s writer with more than 30 years experience in the theatre and TV.
And in an exclusive with the Evening Post, he reflects on the history of pantomime and what it offers young audiences.
Christopher is a nationally respected torchbearer for the positive benefits pantomime provides for young audiences.
He said: “As someone who is passionate about the theatre and in particular for pantomime, I worry that many children are missing out on one of the most enriching and educational art forms there is.
“Pantomime is the most comprehensive form of entertainment. Where else can you see drama, suspense, satire, humour, improvisation, caricatures, music, slapstick and special effects all rolled into one? And where else do you get to interact with the performers?
“Done well, it is very educational. I would really like to see organisations like the Arts Council and the Department for Education do more to help children have at least one experience of pantomime at their local theatre.”
As to whether British pantomime is in a good state, well, that’s debatable.
Go to the Theatre Royal in York or the Playhouse in Nottingham and you will find that generations of families have attended the panto there every year, mainly thanks to the consistency of quality and committed performers – particularly dames who doughtily strive to preserve the best of the tradition. But the picture nationally is patchy.
“Years ago children expected to go to the panto in the festive season. Now it seems less usual for parents to take them, which is a shame,” said Chris, who urges Reading parents to take their children to Aladdin and introduce them to the magic of the theatre through pantomime – the artform as British as fish and chips!
This year promises to be another unique traditional Christmas spectacle brimming with jokes, popular songs, wonderful scenery, stunning costumes and a star-studded cast, with something special for all the family.
Don’t forget to look out for Lulu the Giant Panda, not the singer – she may be behind you!
Aladdin runs at The Hexagon from Saturday and stars Sylvester McCoy (of Dr Who fame), Christopher and a host of other talented actors. Tickets are available from The Hexagon box office on (0118) 960 6060.
From rags to riches
HAVING worn Cinderella's rags for her panto debut, actress/singer Emma Gilmour is glad to have some nice gear to strut in for her second panto outing in Reading.
She plays Princess Jasmine in Aladdin which opens at The Hexagon this weekend and runs until Sunday, January 7.
She told me during rehearsals: “It's quite a serious part – everyone else has the jokes!”
However she is looking forward to her solo numbers – although one is actually a duet with Nicola Weeks’s Aladdin.
They duet in Something Stupid, first recorded by Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy.
She also sings The Rose, a Bette Midler original recently recorded by a boy band.
Emma explained: “That was the idea – to have songs which youngsters know but which grown-ups can also relate to."
In a year which has included appearances in Hollyoaks and Coronation Street, Emma particularly enjoyed being in an episode of Extras in which, as an extra, she had a scene with guest Ross Kemp.
She admired the professionalism of the show’s star Ricky Gervais “and he let me improvise a line,” she said.
In Corrie she had two episodes with Bill Ward, the resident womaniser Charlie.
Her biggest TV exposure was in three series of Sky’s Dream Team. “After that sort of security going out into the real world was a bit of a shock,” she admitted.
Between acting jobs she is a member of a band which plays at corporate functions.
With some college friends she formed the girl band Totty, of which she was musical director and sang her own compositions.
When at home in her native Cheshire she enjoys walking her dog, golden retriever Ben.
For tickets for Aladdin call (0118) 960 6060.