Oh no it’s not…Oh yes it is! How can it really be that time again? Where has the year gone? And gone it has and once more it’s time to get ready for the biggest show in town. The Derry Panto is back and it’s bigger and better than ever (or so I’m told!).
A gigantic beanstalk, Daisy the cow, magic beans, a goose that lays golden eggs and the nastiest oof giants – it’s Panto time again at the Forum!
Telling the story of peasant boy Jack and his attempts to please his impoverished mother and win the hand of Princess Jill, JACK AND THE BEANSTALK remains one of the best-loved pantomimes of all time.
Packed with great song and dance routines, hilarious comedy, dazzling scenes and magic special effects, JACK AND THE BEANSTALK is fun for all the family from 4-94!
It really does symbolise the start of the festive season for myself. The Derry Panto means only one thing in my eyes – it’s CHRISTMAS!
Once again the now infamous show is filled with a hive of talent and yet again William Caulfield returns as the boisterous, fun-loving Dame.
Yesterday I ventured as always each year to the Millennium Forum to meet with the cast and talk about the forthcoming month being involved in the biggest Christmas show in the North West. As I arrived yesterday it was a delight to be welcomed by director John Burgess. Already well into final rehearsals, it was no bother for Mr Burgess to take time out to say hello and introduce me to three local folk, now resident in London, but home to perform on the Derry stage this Christmas.
And hence I was smack bang in the middle of Panto land with Silly Billy (Conor O’Kane), Jack (Jack McCann) and the lovely Princess Jill (Sharon Duffy). I felt right at home amongst these three amigos.
Jack assured me that rehearsals were going great. He told me, “Last Christmas I was working in London, so it’s great to be home this Christmas and working on the stage where it all began for me.” A native of Derry, Jack’s first stage performance was with the local LMS on this very stage at the Millennium Forum. So it really is a home from home for this young man. Conor O’Kane echoed this when he described the Millennium Forum as his “training ground. This is my third Derry pantomime and it’s just great to be home.” Sharon only served to cement the two fellas perception of coming home to the Derry stage, “I’ve been in a few Derry pantomimes, but this is just such a talented cast. It’s a very local cast. And it’s great to be home.” There really are echoes of Phil Coulter’s ‘The Town I Loved so Well’ immediately on talking to these three young Derry actors. Each is clearly so pleased to be home and to be part of the Panto cast of 2017.
So just why is being part of the Derry Pantomime so important to three young, exceptionally talented London based Derry actors? Jack says that Panto is part of nostalgia. “It’s family tradition. It’s the history of this city. This Panto like every Panto before it, moves with the times. It just doesn’t date and it’s great to be part of it.” Conor says, “Panto is home from home. It’s for the kids but it’s also for the adults. It’s very funny and it brings high energy to everyone involved – both on stage and in the audience.” Sharon says, “It’s an adrenaline rush. What unfolds on this stage is very beautiful and it’s great being a part of it.”
Jack McCann says that playing Jack is a special role. “The character of Jack represents the moral good that overcomes bad. It’s a great part to play.” Conor clearly loves his best friend on stage, Daisy. “My best friend, Daisy the Cow is very much part of the show. Who couldn’t love it.” Sharon says Princess Jill is “really fun to play. I’m trying to bring the Moana energy to her. It’s great.”
So what’s new with this latest production. Jack says this pantomime really is moving with the times. “We have music from the current film Moana, we have timeless classics and we have new songs.”
What all three young actors continually emphasised was the sheer talent that is among the cast. “It’s extra special this year and it’s better than ever.” I guess I’ll just wait and see for myself next Thursday night. And I can’t wait.
What I loved most about chatting to these three young folk yesterday was the real camaraderie between them. Three young people who are very much rooted in Derry but who are clearly enjoying the London stages, are very focused and very happy to be in Derry this Christmas. And each are very passionate about this seasons show. Three friends they certainly are, and three professionals they have become. Each individual in their own identity but each with Derry ingrained in their heart.
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK opens at Millennium Forum tomorrow night, Friday 1st December and runs until Sunday 31st December. If you want to get in the spirit of Christmas, then this is sure to be the show to get you there.
For bookings go to Millennium Forum or call the Box Office on 028 7126 4455.
(Once again, the Panto is raising funds for the Mayor’s Charity Aware NI.