‘Derry Godmother’ bewitching London panto

Muire McCallion is playing the ‘Derry Godmother’ in the Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford, London’s Cinderella panto this year.

The Derry native is spreading ‘Derry-isms’ on stage and says she already taught Cinderella what it means to be ‘showed.’

Muire caught up with the ‘Journal’ in between shows to explain how it’s going.

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“It’s going really well so far,” She said. “The first night, I thought the roof was going to raise they were dancing and singing and having an absolute ball. It’s such a big tradition and I know we have our own brilliant pantos but there’s a lot more traditions that I wasn’t aware of. They have their own panto song that took me by surprise at first but I have it now and it’s really fun. All the old favourites are there too like ‘Oh no you didn’t’ and everything else. The audience are so responsive which is so nice because you come out on the stage and you can feel how excited everybody is. I think theatre does that anyway, it gets everyone going.

Cinderella in Kenneth More Theatre, London

“I am absolutely delighted to be back on the stage. Even coming into rehearsal every day was brilliant. We are like big wains, we come in and we play. We can develop the script and work on new bits in a very creative and fun environment. It was so nice to get back into it.”

“The past couple of years have been so hard with Covid and I have been so lucky but I just hope that we are able to keep doing what we do. I think we lost a lot of really talented people who had to make other choices during those two years and it’s so sad. I’m hoping that we will get the help we need to reinvigorate the sector.”

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Muire is staying with her brother and sister-in-law while in London but she plans to return home to Derry when the panto is finished where she runs the Carmel McCafferty School of Drama with her mum Carmel. The drama school prepares children for their drama exams with Trinity Guildhall.

“There is so much talent in Derry and it’s so wonderful to see people committed to what they do and so interested in the art and exploring the field and trying new things. There’s so much interest, in young people especially, in theatre and musical theatre and it’s beautiful to see. For them to be able to explore that as something they maybe would like to do for the rest of their lives is beautiful. ‘Why not you?’ I always tell my drama babies that - ‘Why not you?’

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Muire McCallion from Derry

“I would love to see more theatre in Derry. We have a great theatre scene anyway, I would in no way say we don’t, but I would love to see it even bigger. It’s brilliant that we’re getting bigger shows coming to the Forum because we do have the facilities and the interest. People are hungry for that and it’s so great that we’re getting a taste of it. Six is coming and I cannot wait to see that, it’s going to be so much fun.

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“People can go se these sows in Belfast obviously but there are a lot more logistics involved in going to see a show there - you have to think about travel, food maybe accommodation and those things cost money. Whereas if you can go and see a show in Derry then you can inspire people by showing them different things - maybe one week it will be a musical and then a straight play, we already have several pantomimes in the city. Just keep showing people more and more. We’re hungry for it. We want it all.”

More information on Cinderella in the Kenneth More Theatre can be found at redbridgedramacentre.co.uk