Entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE finds out why apples aren’t always good for you as he talks to Blue Peter legend and director of this year’s Ipswich Regent pantomime Peter Duncan.

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Not many people can boast one of their previous pantos was produced by the co-designer of the London Olympic Games’ opening ceremony.

“Mark Tildesley designed the pantomime Robin Hood for me in 1997. It was all about the medieval countryside, trees, greenery. I had lamps burning, we built the set from scratch, there was water, a maypole.

“[Watching the London ceremony] I thought that was obviously his dry run and is what I would’ve done if I’d had a £27million budget,” laughs Peter. “I might stick it on my biog, ‘my pantos were produced by an Olympics designer’, I think that’s worth a go.”

The actor, presenter and documentary maker will soon be asking mirror, mirror on the wall what’s the best panto of them all when he heads to the Ipswich Regent in Enchanted Entertainment’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Joining him are Dancing on Ice winner and former EastEnders’ actor Sam Attwater as the Prince, CBeebies Mighty Mites and Tikkabilla star Sarah-Jane Honeywell as the Good Fairy, Emmerdale actress Sapphire Elia as Snow White plus a full supporting ensemble and live band.

“They’re all good, talented people; they can sing, dance and certainly act so that always bodes well for a commercial panto because sometimes you’re stuck with people who can’t do stuff, so that’s a really good sign,” adds Peter, who’s directing as well as playing Muddles.

Many a panto has been sunk by stunt casting, I suggest.

“I think it can work brilliantly sometimes, I’m not so against that when personalities are so strong and powerful; it’s actually very exciting for an audience and even some sportsmen [are good] - but don’t tell any actors I said that,” he laughs.

“Usually you do need a good mix of skills in there to make it work because it’s like doing a big musical theatre production in a much shorter space of time than you normally would; it requires enormous effort.

“I think it’s exciting because we’ve got real dwarves which always excites people [although] some people think it’s not quite right. I spent much of my childhood with dwarves and other vertically challenged folk as my father used to promote Midget Town in Battersea Park, London.”

Peter has been in two productions of Snow White over the years. He likes that it’s quite a dark tale at heart, no pun intended.

“I’m not sure quite how dark this one will be though; the idea of cutting someone’s heart out, beauty and vanity are quite profound themes. All pantos have very dark sides, this is a good one for that; the innocence of Snow White, the Wicked Queen.”

So we can expect great storytelling, set pieces, songs, jokes...

“I hope,” he laughs. “You’re saying all the things I should say, but I shall be determined it will have all those things.”

Councillor Bryony Rudkin, Ipswich Borough Council’s culture portfolio-holder, thinks it’s wonderful to continue the pattern of having a star-studded family fun show.

“A Regent Christmas is a great tradition for the town and region. Peter Duncan is a TV legend and I am sure many thousands of people will enjoy Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Having enjoyed the spectacle of an ice show for two years, everybody’s looking forward to channelling their energies into this year’s panto.

“We wanted to focus on a single show this year and put all our energies into making Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs one of the best pantomimes we’ve had at the Regent yet,” adds general manager David Mansfield.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Guy Pascall, Enchanted Entertainment’s executive producer, who said they can’t wait to return to the theatre with what promises to be their biggest and best panto ever.

“After the success of The Wizard of Oz last December we’re going to be adding even more of those all important panto ingredients to this year’s show; such as an hilarious dame, real dwarves, a wacky magic mirror and a Wicked Queen that everyone will want to boo and hiss as loudly as they can.

“Pantomime is the one of the few times of the year when all members of the family, whatever their age, can come along to the theatre and have a wonderful time together as well as joining in this great British tradition.”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at the Ipswich Regent from December 21-30. You can read more interviews with the stars here soon.

For regional, national and world entertainment news follow me on Twitter @WhatsonWayne

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