Prepare for fun, frolics and romance at this year’s Forum Panto Jack and The Beanstalk

(Photo - Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)
(Photo - Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

The cast of this year’s Millennium Forum pantomime ‘Jack and The Beanstalk’ have had a jam packed opening week, with eight shows already under their belt.

Three cast members took some time out of their busy schedule to speak to the ‘Journal’ about this year’s show, and the joy of performing in panto.

Derry native Jack McCann plays his namesake Jack in this year’s show.

He has been working professionally in London since last year, but was able to return home this Christmas to star in the annual panto.

“It’s great to work with a creative team that I know, and old friends like Sharon and Connor who I worked with in an amateur setting.

“It’s an action packed, fun filled show. There’s a great script and it’s nice to play the role of Jack.

“The music choices are really lovely so there’s lots of songs to sing in it.

“The audiences have been fantastic. It’s one of those things that really depend on the audiences because there is so much audience interaction. They really bring the whole thing to life.

“There’s definitely something for all the family in there, even in terms of music, we have a song from the Disney film Moana, and we have Highway to Hell and True Colours, which is something parents will recognise.

“There’s something for everyone to get involved.

“With the humour as well there’s double meanings, so the adults will find some things hilarious.”

Jack will return to London in January to star in an adaptation of the Railway Children.

Conor O’Kane returns to the Forum stage this December to take on the role of Silly Billy in this year’s panto.

This is Conor’s third panto, and previously took on the role of Jack. “I like to do a panto if I can every Christmas.

“Three years ago I did the panto in the Grand Opera House, but I missed home a bit too much so I came back to do the panto in the Forum again. So I get to live at home out in Feeney which is great, getting well looked after by my Mammy,” he said.

Conor is also based in London, but takes any opportunity to work at home.

“This year is really great. I played Jack last time and I’m playing Silly Billy this year, so I have a sort of out of body experience every time I have a scene with Jack, because I know what his lines are!

“It’s a bit strange, but it’s really, really fun.

“Every panto I’ve done here I’ve done a different style of performance. Jack is the romantic lead and I got to brush up on my singing, last year I was in the chorus and I brushed up on my dancing. This year I get to brush up on my comedy skills with Silly Billy which is great fun!

“I’m the voice of the kids, the voice of silliness and madness.

“Silly Billy has a lot of interaction with the kids. He gets everyone in his gang, so when he comes out he gives them a big shout out and they shout back.

“They’re always really on board with what I’m doing. Every time you come out there’s just a wall of sound, it just hits you, it’s just amazing, and you have to match that energy as well.

“It’s a lovely wee run of shows. You do the two weeks of rehearsals at the end of November and then a month of performing. Then New Year, that’s you done and you can go off and do whatever.

“I’m looking forward to the rest of the shows because every audience is different every day,” added Conor.

Sharon Duffy plays Princess Gill, the female lead, and Jack’s love interest in this year’s panto.

This is Sharon’s fourth panto with the Forum, and she said she “absolutely loves” getting home for Christmas.

She has been involved in drama for most of her life, before studying at Mountview Academy of Theatre in London.

“It’s so rewarding. In London there is so much going on, and the sort of theatres you would be in are small spaces, there might even be mice in the dressing room. So to come home to the Millennium Forum, it’s such a great facility, and they’re able to provide massive sets.

“This show in particularly is very asthetically pleasing. It’s great to be involved with it.”

Princess Gill is the romantic female lead, who is pursuing Jack. She wants to forget her princess title and just be an ordinary girl, and fall in love.

“It’s a lovely role to play, but sometimes you have to find more depth in a princess role.

“So I’m trying to make her more of a strong character, not just your typical Disney princess.

“It’s so lovely to have all the children in the audience, and we get to interact with them at the end of the show.

“There’s a lot of meet and greets that go on as well. When you’re interacting with the children, the energy they give you back, it propels you forward so it’s great to have that,” added Sharon.

Jack and the Beanstalk opens at the Millennium Foruns until Sunday, December 31. Tickets are now available from the Box Office. Telephone 71 264455 or visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk for bookings.