GRAND DAME HAS ALL THE WRITE STUFF FOR PANTO
Celebrated playwright and top soap screenwriter Philip Meeks (Emmerdale, Heartbeat, Doctors) is swapping his pen for his dazzling array of pantomime costumes to play the hilarious Dame Widow Twanky in Aladdin at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre from Friday 9 December to Sunday 8 January. Oh yes he is!
And witty wordsmith Philip already has his washing on to get his Dame’s colourful collection of outfits ready to delight audiences this Christmas! Talk about getting into the part! “I’m just doing a bit of laundry and organising my gowns for this year” he laughs. “I have been playing the Dame in pantomime for quite a few years now and have learned it’s really important to have your own costumes. They fit so wonderfully and you feel much more relaxed and ready to have fun with the audience and you can make them as outrageous as you want to! I’m having two new costumes specially made for Twanky this year and no I’m not giving anything away as yet. All I can tell you is I’m big on hoops and colour and they will be a wonderful surprise for all – but there will be a nod to the Orient and of course, an incredibly glamorous lamp frock for the finale.”
One thing we do know is that Ms Twanky will definitely be sporting her pink, fake leopardskin coat to wow audiences as she makes her big entrance. “My Gran had a coat just the same and it’s in memory of her that I always wear that on stage. I also keep a pair of her earrings in my dressing room for luck and it keeps her alive for me. My Gran loved Blackpool and she came all the time for day trips. My family is from the North East and it was part of our life to come over for the day and see the Lights. I remember visiting when I was a teenager and going on the Ghost Train at the Pleasure Beach. I loved it and I still do!”
Philip’s love of pantomime also comes from his family after regular trips to see the seasonal shows around his home town as a young child. “My mum would always take me to see two or three of the professional pantomimes each year” he remembers with fondness. “I saw Tracey Ullman, David Jason in his only ever panto appearance at Newcastle Theatre Royal and the great Terry Scott. My favourite was John Inman in Mother Goose. I fell in love with the Dames as a child and then became interested in the whole process of making the costumes and transforming into this marvellous theatrical character. I always said to myself I was going to do it when I was forty! And it’s been a wonderful experience.”
Philip’s Dame this year will be very much a family friendly figure. “Widow Twanky is a cross between John Inman, Mrs Slocombe (from Are You Being Served) and my beloved Gran. There is a lot of cheeky behavior, but nothing rude and I don’t favour picking on males in the audience. It’s all about making it fabulous for the little ones and having a lot of innocent fun.”
But what about the writing? Philip has won critical acclaim for his plays and screen writing, including the delightfully dark comedy Twinkle, Little Star starring Tim Healy as a disgruntled panto Dame which opened to rave reviews at Edinburgh Festival. “That was the first thing I ever wrote! I would love to revisit it and it would make a wonderful alternative to the traditional Christmas show. There was talk of it being optioned for the West End.” And will Philip be tempted to tinker with this year’s panto script at all? “Oh gosh no. We have a fabulous script that is so professional and so funny it doesn’t need any input from me! Of course, there are always the last minute topical adlibs that get put into each show as a suitable new story breaks. Then all the cast fight to be the one to mention them first!” he cackles wickedly…
Philip will be swapping lines this year with TV soap regular Mark Moraghan (Holby City, Coronation Street); Blackpool lad and BAFTA-winning CBBC star Barney Harwood; BBC Radio Lancashire and Grand panto legend Steve Royle; Radio Wave’s Hayley Kay and comedy magician Mark James in Aladdin’s enchanting tale of magic, mayhem and a most mysterious lamp, live on the Grand Theatre’s famous stage. It’s a fabulous, fairytale treat for all the family this festive season!
Cheeky hero Aladdin sets off on a thrilling quest to win the heart of the beautiful Princess, battle against evil sorcerer Abanazer’s dastardly dark magic and retrieve a mysterious, magical lamp. All the family will love this classic Arabian fantasy full of hit songs, hilarious dance routines and another rollicking good script. It’s jam-packed with music and dance, fun and laughter, a wicked uncle and, of course, an incredible genie. This fabulous, feel-good tale of love and courage is sprinkled with lots of seasonal sparkle and is the perfect way to experience the traditional magic of Christmas.
Will Aladdin and the princess ever find true love? Will the Princess tell her father of Abanazar’s dastardly dark plot? And, more importantly, will Widow Twanky ever get her washing done? Answers to all these questions and more await in the most spectacular pantomime of the season – Aladdin – at Blackpool Grand Theatre!
Following last year’s record-breaking pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Blackpool audiences are guaranteed another year of spectacular sets, dazzling costumes and side-splitting comedy.
Aladdin plays at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Friday 9 December 2016 to Sunday 8 January 2017 starring top soap scriptwriter Philip Meeks (Emmerdale, Heartbeat, Doctors) as Widow Twanky, Mark Moraghan (Holby City, Coronation Street) as evil sorcerer Abanazar; CBBC star Barney Harwood as plucky hero Aladdin; BBC Radio Lancashire presenter and madcap comic Steve Royle as Wishee Washee; Radio Wave’s popular breakfast presenter Hayley Kay as Slave of the Ring and comedy magician Mark James as PC Pong.
Fly to the Grand Theatre Box Office right now, book your seats and watch the whole family be spellbound by Aladdin. It’s the perfect gift this Christmas…
Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Friday 9 December 2016 to Sunday 8 January 2017
Show times vary, visit www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/event/Aladdin
Audio Described and BSL Sign Interpreted performance – Sat 17 Dec 2016 (2pm)
Adults: Band A £22.50/£16.50, Band B £22.50/£16.50, Band C £16.50
Children: Band A £22.50/£16.50, Band B £20.50/£16.50, Band C £15.50
Concessions (Band B) £2 off Top Priced Adult Ticket
Friends of The Grand: £15.00 all Band B performances
Matcham Monkey: All seats £11.00 (Sat 10 & Sun 11 Dec)
Family Ticket: £66*
Senior Pass: £56*
*Only available: 27 Dec(7pm), 28 Dec (2pm), 29 Dec (2pm), 2 Jan (2pm), 3 Jan (7pm), 5 Jan (2pm & 7pm), 6 Jan (2pm & 7pm), 7 Jan (2pm & 7pm), 8 Jan (1pm)
Group discounts available call 01253 743232
Running Time approx. 2hrs 20mins including interval (first few performances may be longer)