Do you remember the 21st night of September?
love was changing the mind of pretenders
while chasing the clouds away
Ok, so the night that changed everything was 5 days earlier than this, but please give us a bit of artistic license! 16th September 2019. The day the Fairfield Halls reopened, and those who doubted it may happen were proved wrong. After 3 years of closure the stunning Halls were re-opened in magnificent style. We were so proud to be there, and to celebrate the work that the Fairfield Halls team, Croydon council and the contractors had achieved.
The scale of the re-build took our breath away. The space that just 6 months before had been a scaffold filled shell, freezing cold with no electricity, no plaster on the walls, feeling very sorry for itself had sprung into life. It felt like a brilliant energy had been released and the Halls were ready to show us just how ready it is to become a vibrant centre for the community and the arts.
With all the council receptions and announcements completed, the Cinderella team snuck off to spend some time in the stunning Phoenix Concert Hall where the pantomime will be performed. The audible intake of breath from all of us as we walked through the door said everything we needed to know. Having previously seen it in its various states of ‘undress’, it was like seeing a bride ready for her wedding day. Proud in its brand-new dressing and coat of paint, we couldn’t get over her scale and vastness, yet with a quite unique intimacy. We know that panto will play brilliantly in the space, especially with what we have up our sleeves!
Meanwhile, back at Imagine head offices the final pieces of casting have been falling into place. Grace Chapman (recently seen in Mame at the Hope Mill Theatre, in Dick Whittington at the New Wimbledon Theatre, as well as roles in Sweeney Todd, Wicked, and The Sound of Music), will star as ‘Cinderella,’ and West End performer James Bisp (Phantom of the Opera, Spamalot, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) will star as ‘Prince Charming’. They will join the previously announced Ore Oduba, who is making his pantomime debut as ‘Dandini’, panto regular and comedian Tim Vine as ‘Buttons’ and CBeebies presenter Cat Sandion as ‘Fairy Godmother’, plus a team of talented youngsters from Croydon and the surrounding areas – who were selected after a busy open audition at Croydon Town Hall earlier in the year. Completing the cast are panto regulars Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron as the Ugly Sisters and Katie Cameron as the Wicked Stepmother
With casting complete, our focus now switches back to the incredible work the Imagine Theatre operations team are carrying out to build the set and costumes, plus the ongoing work of Nina Dunn (video designer) Mark Walters (designer) and Will Brenton (script writer). The set build continues to be headed up by Dave Edmunds with Dawn Outhwaite managing the making of all the costumes.
We’re delighted to be finally able to share some of the secrets of the show with you. For a while now we’ve been saying how incredible the set and costume designs are. Well, here goes with your first behind the scenes ‘sneaky peak’ of the incredible work that Mark Walters done. (all designs and images are copyright Mark Walters and Imagine Theatre)
Delivering a large-scale pantomime into a concert hall with little theatrical infrastructure was always going to be a massive challenge for us, but one that we are really relishing. Here’s what our MD Steve Boden said about the project
‘For a long time, we have been looking for an opportunity to evolve the genre of panto, encompassing a range of technology that has only recently (in relative terms) become available to the theatre world. Panto has continually evolved over the years, constantly reinventing itself and redefining the art form. As custodians of the art-form for future generations of practitioners and audiences, we were looking for an opportunity to push the boundaries a bit harder, to do something different, to challenge our own perceptions of what pantomime is and can be. We decided that if the venue wanted to throw the Croydon panto in the air and re-imagine it for the Concert Hall, then we too should throw all panto conventions that we know into the air and come up with a new delivery of the art-form, to excite and impress audiences now and in the future whilst maintaining the magic and traditions that panto producers pass down whilst keeping the purists happy.
Steve actually spoke for about 20 mins on his thoughts on and visions for the project, so we’ll share the rest with you all in a later blog. It’s so exciting to hear what is going on behind the scenes of what is rapidly becoming the most talked about and anticipated pantomime of the whole 2019 season. We can’t wait for you to see it!