Sleeping Beauty, the Derry Panto – a beacon this Christmas.

It’s Panto time once again and it’s SLEEPING BEAUTY at Millennium Forum, Derry. Oh yes it is…..

Starring William Caulfield as Nanny, it’s destined to be filled with fun, frolics, laughter and much amusement. Just what will unfold on that Derry stage one can only imagine.

Caulfield is joined by a host of stars and two of which I had the fortune to catch up with last week. Orla Mullan and Keith Lynch. the good fairy and sidekick, took time out of their busy schedule to talk all things Panto this Christmas. The Derry pantomime really is the ‘biggest show’ of the year in Derry city, and having had to miss last year, just how important is it to be part of the show this year in 2021 to them both?

Orla and Keith are no strangers to the Derry stage and in fact, it really is home to them both. They are clearly excited to be here and to be involved once again in the infamous Derry panto. Orla tells me, ‘It’s just so good to be back and have the craic. There’s a real family feel here at the forum.’

Keith adds, ‘the fact that this is one of the first traditions coming back again is a beacon. It’s giving us hope again.’ He continued, ‘So many traditions have been lost as part of the pandemic, but this is taking us to that fairy world where we can forget about this world for an hour or two. We get to watch something that’s not doom and gloom.’ And the Derry panto is never doom and gloom. Just the medicine and tonic we all need at this time.

How do you rehearse in such a short space of time for the Christmas Panto? Keith says ‘We’re in rehearsals daily and its repetition after repetition. There’s a lot of things we can’t rehearse too until we have the audience. William is brilliant working with the audience ‘off the cuff’. It’s a credit to his years’ of experience and to his personality. Everyone is a professional and everyone is good at their job. That’s why we have all been cast, so the team is able to trust us.’

Orla adds: ‘everyone knows their job. It’s like a triangle. We work with the director, the ensemble is working their dance in another space. Then the band are rehearsing in another room. The Derry panto is very lucky to have a live band and it’s all in preparation in these two weeks leading up to the opening. We’re very lucky with the space here at the forum.’

I had to ask these two folk just how easy, or indeed difficult, it is to work together (these two are one of stages most loved up couples). Orla assures me that ‘it’s not hard at all. We’ve come into acting from different directions which has really helped us.’ Keith adds, ‘we compliment each other’. That they certainly do, and not only on the stage but in everyday conversation. It’s clearly not a relationship of envy but one of constant support with these two.

Sleeping Beauty is a story where the princess has been snubbed by the royal family, a malevolent fairy places a curse on a princess which only a prince can break, along with the help of three good fairies. But will it be different on the Derry panto stage? The mind boggles. With these folk at the helm it’s destined to have many twists and turns and much panto fun intervention.

Orla and Keith agree that it’s a great panto for this festive season. With so much staying home over the past 2 years and life being put on hold, there’s that reflection of ‘sleeping for 100 years as from the Sleeping Beauty story. The fairytale ends of a note of ‘happy ever after’ and here in the modern world we all want the current crisis to also end on that ‘happy ever after.’ As Keith described the panto season as a ‘beacon’ this really is destined to offer us all that flicker of hope we so need at this time.

The Derry panto opens on 26th November and runs until January 2nd. This is one show you really don’t want to miss. For bookings, call the Box Office on 02871264455 or book online at

It’s the best Panto this Christmas…..oh yes it is….


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