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Q&A with Orchard Theatre’s director on ‘timeless’ pantomime Cinderella

PUBLISHED: 12:00 03 December 2017

Michelle Collins and Louie Spence are starring in the Orchard Theatre's 2017 pantomime, Cinderella. They are photographed with Jayne Wisener (Cinderella) and Luke Kelly (the Prince). Picture: Orchard Theatre

Michelle Collins and Louie Spence are starring in the Orchard Theatre's 2017 pantomime, Cinderella. They are photographed with Jayne Wisener (Cinderella) and Luke Kelly (the Prince). Picture: Orchard Theatre

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“Madcap fun” is on the cards this Christmas for theatregoers in Dartford.

Michelle Collins and Louie Spence are starring in the Orchard Theatre's 2017 pantomime, Cinderella. Picture: Orchard Theatre Michelle Collins and Louie Spence are starring in the Orchard Theatre's 2017 pantomime, Cinderella. Picture: Orchard Theatre

The Orchard Theatre, Home Gardens, is staging family favourite Cinderella from December 9-31, starring television favourites Louie Spence and Michelle Collins.

Here theatre director Lorna Strawson shares an insight into what promises to be a memorable production.

What pantomime have you chosen this year – and why? Is it a team effort deciding which panto to choose, and do you consult other Kent theatres to avoid clashes?

This year the Orchard is presenting the magical fairytale Cinderella, which is one of the most popular pantomime titles and a truly festive title which appeals to everyone. This year’s panto is brought to us by Qdos Entertainment who are the world’s largest pantomime producers and the same team behind our annual Christmas production. The team at Qdos Entertainment also produce the pantomime at our sister venue the Churchill Theatre in Bromley so we make sure there is no crossover.

Jayne Wisener plays the title role in the Orchard Theatre's pantomime Cinderella. Picture: Orchard Theatre Jayne Wisener plays the title role in the Orchard Theatre's pantomime Cinderella. Picture: Orchard Theatre

Who are your big stars, what roles are they playing and why do you think audiences will enjoy seeing them on your stage?

This year we have the fabulous Louie Spence who stars as Dandini with Michelle Collins as the Wicked Stepmother, which is already proving to be a very popular choice with our bookers. Louie is so well-loved for his outrageous personality and as one of soapland’s best-loved villains, Michelle will bring some wickedly devilish fun to the pantomime. They are joined by the beautiful Jayne Wisener in the title role and the hilarious Phil Butler as Buttons so we really do have something for everyone to enjoy. Our younger audiences will love the madcap fun of our comedy and there’ll be something for adults to enjoy too.

Who is directing and producing your panto this year? Do you have the same team as last year or do you vary it from year to year?

Although our producers stay the same, our creative team tends to change each year. For Cinderella, our director Michael Vivian will be overseeing the production alongside our choreographer Chris Cuming and a fabulous group of designers, musical supervisors, lighting experts and our own Orchard technical team who will run the show twice a day for the length of the pantomime run.

Luke Kelly plays the Prince in Orchard Theatre's 2017 pantomime, Cinderella. Picture: Orchard Theatre Luke Kelly plays the Prince in Orchard Theatre's 2017 pantomime, Cinderella. Picture: Orchard Theatre

Why do you think panto is still so popular in this day and age?

Pantomime is timeless; it brings family together for a few hours of live entertainment and escapism, which is so important, and especially at Christmas time. We are all so guilty of escaping into screens we often forget the joy that comes from watching live theatre and being told a spellbinding story and to do that amongst loved ones at the most magical time of year can’t be beaten.

Do you offer any special shows, e.g for local schools, care homes, signed performances for the deaf etc?

This is the second year running where we are staging a relaxed performance of our pantomime, offering all of the same production values and magic but specially adapted to suit patrons with particular needs, plus a sign interpreted and an audio described performance. We believe that pantomime should be available to everyone and we are committed to sharing it with as many theatregoers as possible.

Michelle Collins and Louie Spence are starring in the Orchard Theatre's 2017 pantomime, Cinderella. Picture: Orchard Theatre Michelle Collins and Louie Spence are starring in the Orchard Theatre's 2017 pantomime, Cinderella. Picture: Orchard Theatre

Why should local audiences choose your panto as their family treat this year?

The Orchard Theatre pantomime offers the very best in family entertainment with something for everyone. There’ll be plenty of music, laughter, song and dance, a spectacular transformation scene and plenty of magical surprises along the way.

As a child, what was your favourite panto and why?

All pantomimes as a child were magical, however my personal favourite was always Cinderella because of the transformation scene and how magical it was when she gets to go to the ball! Also because of the fantastic glass slippers!

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