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Open Sesame for group’s 2020 panto

By Alison Norton | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

We are well into the New Year now, but pantomime is still as popular as ever, with local groups across the region performing right into February.

Dom Napier, left, and Paul Bowman from the cast of Aladdin, performed by Harlequin Pantomime

The award-winning Perton-based company Harlequin Pantomime will present Aladdin from January 22-25 at Perton Civic Centre, with performances at 7.30pm nightly and a 2.30pm matinee.

Harriet Rose appears in the title role, with Anisah Hussain as Princess Jasmine, Dave Callaghan as the evil Abanaza and Dom Napier in the comedy leading role of Wishee Washee.

“Wishee Washee is Aladdin’s half-wit brother,” Dom laughs. “He’s about as bright as a broken light bulb, but his heart is as big as Old Peking!”

I asked Dom how he goes about building a character. “It’s a combination of personal interpretation, consultation with the director and reaction with the cast, but most importantly, the audience on the night,” he told me.

“This role is very physical and I fully expect, sprains, cracks, bruises and possible breakages,” he continued.

Pantomime comedy is notoriously difficult to pull off, but Dom brings plenty of personality to the role.

“I never take life too seriously, so I suppose friends and family would say I’m one of life’s comedians,” he adds. “I’m not sure I’ve learnt comedic timing as such, I’ve just had decades of practice.”

No panto is complete without audience participation, a good old slapstick routine and a singalong.

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“The audience is the most important part of a good panto,” agrees Dom.

“They’ll let you know if you’re doing a good job or not. It’s the comedy fool’s job to get the audience involved, but each audience is different and responds differently which makes it exciting and challenging.”

Dream role

“The audience love the alternative ’12 days of Christmas’ (oh yes they do!) and I’m delighted its back again this year with custard pies, toilet roles and a bra that was meant to hold three!” Dom laughed. It sounds hilarious!

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Apart from panto, Dom must surely have a dream role he would love to play. In fact, he has two.

“My ultimate dream role would be ‘The Engineer’ from Miss Saigon, but unfortunately it is unlikely to be available for amateur performance in my lifetime,” he said. “It’s a rollercoaster character peppered with comedy and emotion with a darker side.”

“Also, I would love to play ‘Lord Farquhar’ from Shrek; a hysterical, naughty role and currently available for amateur performance, so watch this space!”

No panto is complete without a dame of course and Paul Bowman will be celebrating his 26th year in a wig and frock in 2020! This time he is playing the infamous Widow Twankey. Watch out for a washing machine hat and an outfit made entirely of the contents of a washing line, folks!

Aladdin is one of the best-loved traditional pantomimes, both for professional and amateur theatre performers alike.

Bursting with gags, special effects, colourful costumes and popular music, Harlequin’s panto will be perfect family entertainment.

For tickets, call 01902 678242 or head to seaty.co.uk/harlequinaladdin

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Another popular panto group, Startime Variety, which performs at the Cornbow Hall in Halesowen, will be presenting Rapunzel from January 29 to February 2, with performances at 7.15pm and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2.15pm.

Written by a member of the group, Holly Mills, this is a traditional panto, but with some added characters.

For tickets, call 07901 055685 or visit seaty.co.uk

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If you don’t fancy pantomime, the resident Nonentities group at the Rose Theatre in Kidderminster will be performing Chase Me Up Farndale Avenue S’il Vous Plait, an amusing comedy by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jnr, from January 27 to February 1.This is a fast and furious comedy, guaranteed to chase away those chilly winter blues. For tickets, call 01562 743745 or visit rosetheatre.co.uk

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The stage adaptation of the hit BBC comedy by Richard Curtis, The Vicar of Dibley is a favourite for amateur performers, and the resident group at The Crescent Theatre in Birmingham will perform this hilarious piece from January 25-February 1.

All your favourite characters are there – grumpy David Horton, Hugo, Owen, and Geraldine’s right-hand woman Alice. Visit crescent-theatre.co.uk

Alison Norton

By Alison Norton
@AlisonNorton

Theatre critic and unofficial 'am dram queen' for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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