By Jenifer Thomas

ONE of the things I love about going to the Tweed Theatre pantomime each year is that moment when the curtain opens and the stage is revealed in all its colourful, glittery glory.

What can be a dark and gloomy space is transformed into a bright, exciting party.

The obvious enjoyment of the cast is the next treat.

Despite months of rehearsing, practising repeatedly, the singing, dancing and acting they have been working so hard on, their smiles are like a Christmas gift – they genuinely want everyone to have a great time and the more audience reaction they get, the more they smile.

Having a group this large to work with must be a mammoth task and it is testament to director Katharine Mathison that she gets the best out of every cast member and clearly inspires them to be the best they possibly can.

Katharine and her team have been responsible for many of the youth theatre performances given by Tweed Theatre over the last 12 years.

With a small, dedicated team and a teeny budget they have brought magic into literally thousands of hearts over the years.

From traditional pantomimes to straight plays (think The Great Gatsby and Blood Brothers), Katharine and her team have also written several of the Christmas shows and are responsible for all the singing, dancing, set design, special effects, costumes and props.

Considering they all have jobs too, their achievements are incredible.

Aladdin (script by Ben Crocker) is a pre-Christmas treat.

From the first opening prologue when evil Abanazar (played splendidly by pantomime stalwart David McGrath) meets the Genie of the Ring (Jade Mackay) the action gallops along.

As the cast miraculously travel from China to Egypt and back again, Aladdin (Jess Stennett) falls in love with Princess Jasmine (Emma Tennant) and disrupts Abanazar’s dastardly plans.

Comedy is provided by the hapless Ping and Pong (Gabriela Hamza and Evelyn Whitehead), Widow Twankey (Keith Brunton) and Wishee Washee (Sophie Crittenden).

In addition, there is a very naughty panda (Hamish McAllister) and a snobby Emperor (William Macpherson) and, as the action draws to a close, the Genie of the Lamp (Annie Moore) transforms evil into good and everyone lives happily ever after.

All these principals are supported by the chorus who this year consist of Holly Nichol, Bebe Mitchell, Emily Crittenden, Gemma Mitchell, Rosie Noble, Cady Kelso, Violet Ferguson, Emellia Howie, Lucy Dunlop, Sadie Holt, Lucy Stennett, Lucy Paton, Leah Dunlop, Isla Smith, Annabelle Brown, Farrah Borthwick, Caitlin Renton, Maria O’Hara, Clementine Greaves and Georgia Sharpe.

Of course, being panto, not everything goes exactly right but the cast supported each other, helped out if lines went astray and ad-libbed to the audience to allow space to gather thoughts.

Performances like this are not just about theatrical skills – team work, communication, problem solving and creativity all play a part (no pun intended) in the success of a show.

Aladdin has attracted considerable funding in 2023 – something that small organisations like Tweed Theatre rely on to ensure they can continue to operate and support the next generation of young actors to gain confidence.

The support from local businesses – Brown Brothers, Stobo, Dunnabie Fine Foods, MK Pet Foods and DR Collin, plus Tesco, the National Lottery Community Fund and Magic Little Grants – all contributed to making this a really bright, sparkly and spectacular show.

Tweed Theatre would like to thank all of these for their continued support as well as Oldham Coliseum who donated some of the costumes seen during the show.

Another mention goes to the crew – Stephen Mathison, Yvonne Brunton, Lesley McLaren, David Brunton, John Crawley, John Macpherson, Louise Hosker, Judith Denwood and Fiona Dickson.

All of them provide many hours of support backstage and throughout the year to ensure that the show can go on.

And final words? As always, I enjoyed absolutely every minute of this show.

Christmas would not be the same without a pantomime and it’s great to support a local group and particularly a team like this who nurture so many young people to achieve great things.

As the curtain closed I was able to reflect on the fun of the previous two hours – the energy and joy coming in waves from the stage, the audience participation and the last moments as snow drifted over the auditorium and the cast waved goodbye. It was a truly magical show and a brilliant way to start the festive season.

Congratulations to all those involved – you smashed it!

The show continues today (Saturday).

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