Even though Easter has only just passed us by, the Victoria Theatre in Halifax are already planning for the Christmas season and their spectacular family panto Aladdin and they are delighted to be able announce their first two confirmed cast members.
Once again local favourite Neil Hurst will be returning to play the lovable Wishee Washee and this year will also see the return of Adam Stafford as Widow Twankey. Adam previously played Dame Dorothy Do It way back in the Victoria Theatre’s 2012 production of Beauty and the Beast.
For Neil it just would not be Christmas without appearing in the Halifax panto and this will be his ninth year playing comic.
“I love playing Wishee Washee, I have actually played this particular role more than any other in my panto career. One of my all time favourite panto scenes is the laundry scene where I accidentally get squashed through the mangle. The whole process of this requires me to have a ‘flat’ version of myself made up weeks before, this is usually a life-size photo of me with a shocked look on my face. Obviously at the end of each run the producers have no use for a 5ft 10 cut out photo of me so I get to keep it. I now have 4 of these in my loft at various ages in my career. They used to come in handy too when my daughters were babies. When they were feeling lonely at night and just wanted Mummy or Daddy there to keep them safe we started putting the cut out Wishee Washee’s propped up at the end of their cots… it worked a treat!”
Neil has recently been appearing in The Good Old Days of Variety with Billy Pearce as well as filming Hopping the Pond for US television, filming a number of commercials and auditioning for a few top secret roles!
Neil says “I am thrilled to be in panto with Adam once again as we worked really well together and he is a fabulous dame.”
Five years after his last appearance in Halifax Adam says “I am excited to return to Halifax for panto. I had a great season when I did Beauty and the Beast. I love Halifax and working with Neil and the rest of the great team at this lovely theatre. The audiences were fantastic and always up for a good laugh.”
“I live near London but have strong family links in Bradford and Leeds (my uncle ran the education department at the National Media Museum for many years) and so I try to travel North for the Christmas season whenever the opportunity arises. I have been Dame for the last few years at The Bradford Alhambra and always pop to see the Halifax show. I really enjoy its traditional panto roots - fast moving comedy and strong story, which to me is the basis of any good pantomime.”
“Like all self employed people, our business can be a juggling act of dates, and I have moved into theatre directing much more over the last few years. I do a lot now at my local venue ‘down south’, The Wilde Theatre at beautiful South Hill Park, and have been blessed with some fantastic productions including Oliver!, Just So, Fawlty Towers and last Christmas, my first panto as director, Cinderella. I have been asked back to do the same this year. The lovely people at Imagine asked if I would like to come back to Halifax but dates have clashed, until now! So this year is perfect, I am getting my cake and eating it!! I will direct my local panto then head north to start rehearsals as Widow Twankey (my favourite dame) in Halifax. How lucky am I!!”
“I have a long history with shows for families and a younger audience, starting off for many years as assistant director to David Wood OBE. David is the National Children's dramatist, having a number of fantastic original plays and being the original adaptor of Roald Dahl's stories for stage including The BFG, The Witches and The Twits. My years with David have taught me the absolute value of theatre for young people as well as adults and a number of fun projects for me as a director. The most recent is the world tour of Hello Kitty Live which we opened at the Hammersmith Apollo, London, and has now been trundling around areas of the globe, now looking to tour South America.”
“I am currently writing a proposal for another show…. but won’t say too much until we get the go-ahead… I don’t want to jinx it!! Meanwhile I look forward to getting back to Halifax and a fun, funny, action-packed Christmas season! (I can’t believe I’m saying this and its barely spring)!!”
With last year’s panto breaking box office records The Victoria Theatre advises booking tickets early to ensure the seats and performances you would prefer. Aladdin runs from Saturday 16th December 2017 until Saturday 6th January 2018.