Its that time of the year again, the leaves are falling off the trees, the days are getting shorter and our thoughts turn towards Christmas. The best part of Christmas is Pantomime – “Oh yes it is!” – and I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Aladdin at Darlington Hippodrome today
I met the stars of the show – Zoe Birkett who is playing Princess Jasmin, Louie Spence who is playing the Genie of the Ring and Liam Mellor who plays Wishee Washee.
Have you ever been to Darlington before?
Louie – No, I’ve never been before. But it looks really nice so I’m looking forward to spending some time here.
Zoe – Yes, I’m a local. I went to school here and most of my family are here.
Liam – Yes, I’m only from Redcar so I’m also local and I’ve appeared at the Hippodrome before.
Have you done panto before?
Louie – Yes, this is my ninth consecutive panto.
Zoe – Yes, this is my 5th and my 4th one in Darlington.
Liam – Yes, this is my 13th year and my 25th pantomime.
What do you plan to do in your time off from the show?
Louie – Rest! It’s a very intensive role and I give it my all so after 2 and 3 show days I plan to spend my day off sleeping.
Zoe – Time off? I have a baby and a fiancé, I’m not sure what time off is!
Liam – Sleep! Although I am Daddy Day Care during the day so I’ll be with my kids.
Louie – My role is Genie of the Ring. I’ve played it before and it’s going to be fun and camp and me.
Zoe – I’m very excited as I’ve had a hand in choosing the songs for Jasmine. She’s a bit of a spicy princess and I’m really looking forward to playing her.
Liam – We have got routines never ever seen before, special effects, it’s going to be cracking.
Do you enjoy panto? Would you like to do other theatre roles?
Louie – I really do, I enjoy performing live and all the interaction from the audience. You see happy families and you get a great response. I’ve done other theatre in the past – Miss Saigon and Cats and I’ve recently been in The Producers so I’ve done theatre before.
Zoe – I love panto, the audiences, the fun, knowing that things can go wrong at any minute – it all keeps you on your toes. I love panto but I love Musical Theatre playing different parts. My favourite part was Rachel in the Bodyguard. I’ve always had Whitney Houston on in my dressing room so getting to belt out her songs live on stage every night was a dream come true.
Liam – Yes, panto is my favourite job. It makes my Christmas and Summer and Easter and October too. I’m a character singer. I can hold a tune but the type of part I can play is like Thenardier in Les Miserables and I need to be a bit older for that.
What is it like playing your character?
Louie – It’s fun and joyous, a role that’s really fun. I love to play nice characters to get the better reactions.
Zoe – Jasmine is a tough cookie princess and I’ve got some fabulous costumes to wear. I’ve been a baddie the last few years so I’m going to enjoy being good.
Liam – It’s great, I play it really innocent and I get to be a big kid again.
What do you plan to do on Christmas Day?
Louie – My husband is coming up to spend Christmas Day with me and then he is going to spend New Year with his family in Spain.
Zoe – I’m hoping to do nothing: just me, my fiancé and my little girl. She is obsessed with kitchens at the minute when we go to mums and tots, so I’m going to make her a kitchen to play with.
Liam – It’s the first year in ages I’ve not cooked Christmas dinner, so I’m going to relax, play with my kids and have a tiny tipple because I’m working on Boxing Day.
Do you plan to see any other pantos while you are here?
Louie – I’d love to but I really won’t have time, we only have one day off a week and I‘ll be recovering from our show.
Zoe – I’m not going to have time, I’d like to get to see my friend Danny in Newcastle but I doubt I’ll be able to.
Liam – I’m really hoping I’ll get to see some others – I really do love panto!
With such a talented and experienced cast, Darlington Hippodrome will be an oasis of Eastern magic this Christmas. Aladdin is perfect festive fun for all the family.
Aladdin is on at Darlington Hippodrome from Saturday 8 December to Sunday 6 January to book tickets contact the theatre www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk or ring 01325 405405