By Grainne McCool
“Oh no it isn’t!” It really is that time of year again where across the country the Pantomime is alive and entertaining as ever. Having opened just last weekend in Derry, it is the time of year when young and old come together and enjoy what must surely be one of the greatest pantomimes in the country. In recent years the panto really has become a festive highlight for families here in Derry.
The now infamous Derry pantomime is set to break all records this year. Having played to almost 30,000 people last year, the Millennium Forum announced earlier today that, “tickets for this years show have already been swept up by 25,000 panto fans keen to get into the Christmas spirit”. 2016 is soaring and it’s still only in its early days of the first week.
Since opening on Friday 2nd December, thousands of children of all ages have screamed, booed, hissed, sang and cheered along to the latest festive offering from the cityside theatre. Schools from as far away as Enniskillen, Arranmore Island, Newry, Co.Donegal, Ardara, Glenties, Gortahork, Irvinestown, Omagh, Dungiven and Ballycastle have also made the journey to the city for the annual Christmas show.
It really is time to step into Christmas and have a truly magical family experience at the Millennium Forum with the ultimate rags-to-riches tale of Cinderella. Will Cinderella win her Prince? Will the glass slipper fit? You’ll have to wait until after the clock strikes midnight to find out.
Packed with great song and dance routines, hilarious comedy, dazzling scenes, sumptuous sets and magical special effects, Cinderella is fun for all the family from 4 to 94.
This year’s Derry panto is featuring a star studded local and Northern Irish cast including the return of William Caulfield as ‘Buttons’, Mark Lamb as ‘Prince Charming’, Kathryn Rutherford as ‘Cinderella’, Orla Mullan as the ‘Fairy Godmother’ and Keith Lynch and James Lecky as the ‘Ugly Sisters’. This glittering Christmas treat is already destined to be a hit with audiences far and wide.
But just what makes the Derry pantomime so special? Just why do the crowds flock to the Millennium Forum year in year out? I caught up with leading actors, William Caulfield (aka Buttons), James Lecky and Keith Lynch (Ugly sisters), Mark Lamb (Prince Charming) and Kathryn Rutherford (Cinderella) last week to find out.
Caulfied now in his 11th consecutive year as leading role in the Derry panto tells me: “Derry people are very much into the arts. The rest of Northern Ireland looked to Derry most especially in the dark days, for their theatre and entertainment. Derry always had entertainment and Derry always welcomed entertainment.” Caulfield went on to say, “Pantomime is the first introduction to theatre for children. They fall in love and they return. Derry welcomes this and it shows.”
Keith Lynch and James Lecky told me: “It’s a tradition in Derry. It’s a family experience at Christmas and it’s magical. For us, it’s a home-coming.”
Kathryn Rutherford agrees that panto is indeed, “something for the whole family to enjoy. It’s magic and it appeals to all.” Mark Lamb, who is experiencing his first professional role as Prince Charming here in the Derry panto says, “this is an amazing experience for me. I’m having the best time. I’m also going to experience my 21st birthday here in Derry next week so it’s special in many ways.”
Derry is certainly alive with panto fever at present and is set to brighten further as the weeks leading up to Christmas and after, come upon us. The Derry stage really is magical at this time of year and Christmas really wouldn’t be Christmas in Derry without an annual visit to the panto.
Cinderella runs at the Millennium Forum, Derry, from Friday 2nd December until Saturday 31st December. Tickets are now available from the Box Office. Telephone 71 264455 or visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk for bookings.
Book your tickets now and you shall go to the ball.