Gallery: Magic in the making as Aladdin panto comes alive at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

The 'Aladdin' panto cast arrive at the Theatre Royal in Bury.

The 'Aladdin' panto cast arrive at the Theatre Royal in Bury. - Credit: Archant

What a thrill, what a time! It’s pantomime season and in Bury St Edmunds rehearsals are already under way and James Marston went along to meet the cast.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and it’s cold and damp outside.

But inside the ancient Guildhall in Bury St Edmunds magic is in the making.

And the rehearsals for this year’s Theatre Royal pantomime are in full flow.

Dame Widow Twanky is learning her lines in the banqueting room, while in the old courtroom the cast are learning some new dance steps.

It’s all happening according to plan.

Director Tim Welton isn’t new to pantomime.

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But the 50-year-old father of two said: “This is the first time I have directed a panto at the Theatre Royal.

“What I really like about it is the routines and the links between panto and the old music hall and variety acts. I love the variety of pantomime, the double acts and the structure of a scene then song then a scene and then a song again.

“If you get it right the song moves the story on. You have to get the recipe right.”

A great British tradition, this year’s production – Aladdin – will include the pivotal characters of pantomime dame and principal boy.

Tim, whose partner Lynn Whitehead is head of participation at the theatre, said: “Pantomime is part of an old tradition of festive family entertainment. I live in Bury and it is a delightful theatre to work and perform in. We have a cast of nine plus two teams of six youngsters who make up the ensemble.”

The show opens on November 29.

Tim said: “We have two weeks of rehearsal and then four days of technical and dress rehearsals in the theatre before opening night. Pantomime is often the first time a young person is introduced to the theatre and for many it is the only time of the year that they come to the theatre.”

On a space roughly equivalent to the size of the Theatre Royal stage marked out on the floor, the cast find their feet as they go through the rehearsal process.

Working with the choreographer and musical director, it is Tim’s job to make sure everyone knows what they are doing and where they should be.

Tim said: “The rehearsal process is a lot of fun and Aladdin is a fabulous story with a heritage that goes back centuries. It is one of the well balanced pantomimes which is aimed at both girls and boys. It is very accessible.”

James Nickerson, 44, is playing the part of Dame Widow Twanky.

He said: “This is my ninth panto at Bury. It’s the part of the clown and you get to mess around and have fun with the audience. The dame should hold the story together and encourage interaction with the audience. I love performing at Bury and the theatre is perfect for pantomime.”

Roxanne Palmer is learning her lines for the part of Princess Jasmine.

She said: “She is the love interest for Aladdin and she is also next in line to the throne after her mother the Empress.”

Usually found on the West End stage, Roxanne, 26, regularly performs in musical theatre and will bring her singing skills to the part.

She added: “This is my first pantomime. I have always wanted to do it.”

But what’s the story about?

Tim added: “It is a colourful story half set in old Peking and half in Egypt.

“Aladdin lives with his mother Widow Twanky in old Peking. He’s a poor boy but with great aspirations. He falls in love with Princess Jasmine but he has no fortune.

“He falls in with the evil Abanazer who persuades him to find a magic lamp in a cave. It is a fabulous story.”

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