Panto time is here and we’re dame for a laugh

Alnwick Theatre Club, Aladdin'Jimmy Dodds
Alnwick Theatre Club, Aladdin'Jimmy Dodds

It’s that time of year when panto preparations are now frantically under way to put on a fun-filled show at the start of 2013.

Rehearsals have begun in earnest at Alnwick Theatre Club for its forthcoming production of Aladdin, which opens at the Playhouse on January 18.

And, as audiences have come to expect and love, it will be jam-packed with local humour thanks, in no small part, to the club’s legendary panto dame Jimmy Dodds, who is co-directing. The script has been written by Alan Frayn, who penned last year’s sparkling re-imagining of Treasure Island.

For Jimmy, this will be his 18th pantomime outing. “I love panto, but it’s hard graft,” he said. “We’re doing an extra performance with this one, starting on the Friday night. By the time the Saturday night is done, we will have three shows under our belts. We then have the Sunday and Monday off and then it’s back in from the Tuesday to Saturday. But we love doing it.”

As well as panto, Jimmy has turned his considerable stage talents to mainstream plays, appearing as Henry Ormoroyd in JB Priestley’s When We Are Married, which was staged in April.

“I will do plays, but only if I really like the script,” he said. “In that one, playing a drunk while drinking beer on stage was a dream role.”

Looking forward to Aladdin, Jimmy will be back in traditional form as the panto dame, in this case Widow Twanky, as well as jointly directing.

“Some writers are a little bit precious about changing things, but Alan gives us carte blanche with his scripts,” he says. “This is the first time, though, that we’ve laughed out loud during a reading.

“It is an extremely funny script and we were in fits.

“There will be a few surprises in this production and a few guest appearances. We’re really looking forward to the audience’s reaction.”

Peter Biggers, chairman of Alnwick Theatre Club, said: “There’s some great comedy in our show, particularly from our Dame and the two Chinese policemen – it’s very funny.

“Rehearsals started at the back end of September and are coming together nicely.”

Aladdin opens onFriday, January 18 at 7.30pm, with a matinee on the Saturday at 2pm. There are evening shows from the Tuesday to Saturday.