It’s December, and with just 23 more ‘sleeps’ until Christmas, it’s also time to experience the regular pantomime at the Millennium Forum.
This year it’s ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, and comedian William Caulfield is back too, this time playing the Dame.
William said, “This is my ninth year doing the Derry panto, and I never say ‘no’ to the pantomime, mainly because I tour all year on my own, and I enjoy the camaraderie of working with a full cast.
“I look forward to coming back and I’ve never seen Derry without its Christmas tree up. I’m based in Bangor but for the entire month of December I’m immersed in the panto.
“This is my fourth time appearing in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ but my first time in the Dame role.
“But the basic show and story is the same and there’s lots of spectacle in this year’s show - with a real giant and a cow on-stage.”
A stand-up comedian by trade William is someone who regularly gets his material from situations and events he sees in daily life but for the pantomime the script rarely changes.
He explained, “In my ‘day-job’ I constantly change the show but with panto the script is 95% ready to go when I get it.
“Once we start rehearsals things do change - and when we perform in front of an audience and a joke needs changed we will add it in - or take it out.
“So the script on opening night will never be the same as the one we deliver on the last evening.”
This year William is donning women’s clothes and a lot of make-up - a part of the performance he doesn’t particularly enjoy.
“It’s not my favourite thing to do; to dress up in women’s clothes - but the children love the funny side of a man wearing a dress. And it’s very obvious that I’m a man really.
“The make-up takes forever to put on and even longer to take off, which I hate, and I get through a lot of baby wipes!”
The comedy of panto however, is something William enjoys.
“There’s two layers of comedy in a panto. There’s the obvious slap-stick kind that the kids love, and then there’s the double entendres that the adults ‘get’.
“And the audiences are nearly always half adults anyway - I know a few who ‘steal’ a child for the day just so they go!”
Rehearsals were well underway last week, with the opening show last Friday.
William finished: “Rehearsals are going well. There is a cast of around 25, with an adult chorus and a junior chorus in addition to the main roles.
“It’s great to see some of the junior ones coming through into the adult chorus.
“It’s a lovely atmosphere backstage and I enjoy the banter and chat with the younger members of the cast.
“We’re all getting on great, which helps, and that shows on stage too.
“I always say panto is a rest for me because I’m not carrying the whole show by myself as there are plenty of characters. All we need now is an audience!”
You can see a review of this year’s pantomime in next Tuesday’s ‘Journal’.