It’s Panto Time Again in Tunbridge Wells! Oh no it’s not! Oh yes it is!
Lyn Funnell gets an invitation to interview the cast of Sleeping Beauty, which is showing at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall this Christmas season – and she found out a few of their secrets!
CLAIRE SWEENEY plays the Bad Fairy.
Claire has appeared in Brookside, Celebrity Big Brother, Benidorm, Holby City, Loose Women, Strictly Come Dancing, as well as Musicals, Pantomime, and many other things.
LYN Claire, what do you like about the theatre?
CLAIRE It feeds my soul. I love Theatre! I go to watch shows on my days off.
It’s not just a job, it’s a passion!
LYN Have you seen the script yet, and have you started rehearsing?
CLAIRE Not yet! We start rehearsing on the 26th November and we’ll get the script to read a week or two before that.
LYN Are you staying in Tunbridge Wells?
CLAIRE I’m commuting by train. I’ve got a 4-year-old son who I like to take to Nursery. It only takes an hour to London by train.
LYN How long has it taken you to get ready?
CLAIRE About half an hour as I need help to get into the basque. I did my makeup on the train and it took 10 minutes.
LYN Please tell me how you get your makeup off. I can never get all mine off and I get black tramlines on my pillows.
CLAIRE I use Weleda Facewash & Cleansing Foam, then Weleda Lotion.
LYN Do you improvise on the stage?
CLAIRE No, I stick to the script but the comedians often improvise.
LYN What’s your final comment, Claire?
CLAIRE Panto’s lovely. I’ve done it for 30 years. I’m 47 now.
LYN 47? You don’t look it! (She doesn’t. She looks 10 years younger than that.)
CLAIRE I get to see it through the eyes of a child.
MICHAEL VINSEN plays the Prince.
LYN Michael, what were you doing before this?
MICHAEL A lot of West End Musical Theatre. I’ve been in Hairspray, The Book of Mormon, and finally Kinky Boots for the past two years. I’ve been wearing stilettos for two years and it was agony!
LYN What do you like about the Theatre?
MICHAEL I love a live audience. There’s a different reaction every night, and a different connection with the Audience.
LYN Do you know what you’re doing next year?
MICHAEL I don’t know yet what’s coming next year. It’s scary but exciting!
LYN When did you get this job?
MICHAEL About six weeks ago. I’d just finished doing a Disney movie and the audition came up. Then I was offered it an hour later so I must have done something right!
LYN Do you always stick to the script, and have you dried up at all or Corpsed?
MICHAEL I stick to the script and I’ve never dried up, although I have fluffed my lines a few times.
Yes I’ve got the giggles. I just turn away for a while until I regain control of it.
LYN How do you get your makeup off?
MICHAEL I’m wearing makeup now. (He leaned forward for me to have a good look.)
LYN It’s not very obvious.
MICHAEL I use a Clinique Balm in a purple tub. I put it on and leave it for a while.
LYN What is your final comment, Michael?
MICHAEL That I’m lovely, charming, handsome and everything a Prince should be!
DEREK MORAN is Silly Billy
Lyn Derek, what do you like about the Theatre?
DEREK You get an instant reaction. You’re under pressure, then after the 1st scene goes well, it’s a trip; it’s Euphoria.
It all starts with a piece of paper, and then the show comes together.
LYN Are you commuting?
Derek No, I’ve rented a house in Tunbridge Wells, and I’ve got Jet my Miniature Yorky-poo with me.
LYN What are your plans for next year?
DEREK I’m in Milkshake, the children’s programme on Channel 5 and I’m directing the Milkshake Monkeys’ Musical.
LYN I’ve heard about you Comedians! Do you stick to the script?
DEREK Yes. I’ve spent so much time learning it! But I am a bit of a prankster.
LYN Have you ever dried up or got the giggles?
DEREK Yes I have dried up. I had a frog in my throat so I just made it into a joke.
I do get the giggles, and once I start I can’t stop!
LYN I have terrible trouble getting my makeup off. What do you use?
DEREK I buy Makeup Remover Facecloths in Primark for £1.50 each.
LYN And what would you like to say finally?
DEREK I’m excited to be in Tunbridge Wells this Christmas and the show’s going to be great, so come and see us!
LAURA MULLOWNEY is playing the Good Fairy.
LYN Laura, what do you like about the Theatre?
LAURA I’ve been performing since I was two! I love playing different characters and roles, and I enjoy the camaraderie of the Cast.
I love seeing the children’s faces when I play live Theatre.
LYN What have you been doing?
LAURA I’ve been in Legally Blonde, the Musical this year. My background is in Musical Theatre.
LYN Do you know what you’ll be doing next year?
LAURA Not yet! It’s exciting.
LYN How are you getting to Tunbridge Wells?
LAURA I’ll be driving.
LYN Have you ever dried up or Corpsed?
LAURA I’ve sometimes had to cover up for other people.
LYN Do you stick to the script?
LAURA As the Good Fairy I’ll be talking in rhyme, so I’ll have to stick to the script.
LYN What would you like to say finally?
LAURA I’m looking forward to seeing the lovely people of Tunbridge Wells and bringing some Christmas Joy!
QUINN PATRICK is playing the Nurse.
LYN How long have you been playing the Pantomime Dame?
QUINN 11 years, but I’ve been in Panto for 20 years.
LYN Why do you love the Theatre?
QUINN Nothing beats a live audience!
I can take my outfit off and walk past everyone and nobody recognises me.
One man did and said, ‘Oh you look so different! And I replied, ‘Thank goodness!’
LYN Are you commuting or staying in Tunbridge Wells?
QUINN I’m staying in Tunbridge Wells with a friend. I stayed with her last year and I must have behaved myself because she’s allowed me back again!
LYN What are you doing next year?
QUINN No idea of next year! I do Stand-Up and I want to do more. There’s a new Musical at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. Also I do a lot of Children’s TV, and have lots of parts on TV.
LYN Are you an Extra?
QUINN No, I’m an Actor. I have speaking parts.
LYN Have you ever dried up or Corpsed?
QUINN I’ve dried up but it doesn’t last long. I can control the giggles. I’m the one who is making the laughs!
LYN how long does it take you to get ready?
QUINN It took 15 minutes to do my face, and five minutes to get dressed.
I’ve got to be quick because I’ve got around 12 costume changes!
QUINN Yes. I have a lot of my own costumes, and they have an excellent Wardrobe supplier here in Tunbridge Wells.
LYN Quinn, how on earth do you remove all that makeup? I have trouble with just a little bit!
QUINN First I cover my face with baby lotion before I put my makeup on. Then I remove it with baby lotion after the Show which I leave on for a while, then wash off over the sink or in the shower.
LYN Baby lotion? I thought you’d use some professional cream!
QUINN No, I’ve done all that and I’ve found that this way is the best, and gentler on my skin.
LYN And what would you like to say finally?
QUINN I’m happy to be back in Tunbridge Wells this year. I was here in the Panto last year and had such a good time!
I had lunch with the Cast before I interviewed them and they were such a relaxed, friendly bunch that I was surprised to discover that they’d only just met each other. I assumed they’d all known each other for ages!
As they all get along so well, I think the atmosphere on and behind the stage is going to be wonderful, and I reckon Sleeping Beauty is going to be the best Tunbridge Wells Pantomime ever!
Oh no it’s not!
OH YES IT IS!
Assembly Hall Theatre
Assembly Hall Theatre is a 973 seat multi-purpose venue in the heart of Tunbridge Wells. Opened in 1939, the theatre hosts popular music, comedy, family, dance, drama, classical music and variety events and an annual pantomime. Following the appointment of John-Jackson Almond as Director in 2016 Assembly Hall Theatre is committed to engaging more widely with the community and developing new audiences.
Assembly Hall Theatre is owned and managed by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
Friday 7 December – Wednesday 2 January
Childrens tickets from £15.50*
Adult tickets from £24*
*Plus £2 per ticket booking fee, or 85p per ticket booking fee online
To book tickets please contact the box office on 01892 530613 or visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk