Why the Dartford pantomime is the fairest in all the land
The Orchard theatre will present Cinderella next month
Our Christmas blog series gives audiences the chance to rave about their own pantomime. Here, we ask Dartford Orchard theatre regular Mick Trembling why he believes Dartford hosts the best spectacle every festive season. 2017's production of Cinderella stars Louie Spence and Michelle Collins, with Collins playing the evil stepmother.
The very first pantomime that I recall going to see was in 1961/62 when I saw Old King Cole at the London Palladium. Charlie Drake was the star of the show. The pantomime itself was just amazing, a magnificent treat. I was just ten years-old and excited by the riot of colour, noise, and lights, which started my love of the theatre.
I don't recall seeing another as a child, but once I had children of my own, I wanted them to share my love of theatre, so in 1984, I took my daughter to see her first pantomime. We went to see Dick Whittington, starring Barbara Windsor and Nicholas Parsons, which was playing at the Orchard Theatre. My daughter was just four years old and, just as I had once been, was totally overwhelmed by the colours, noise, and the lights.
In 1988 my daughter and I went to the Orchard Theatre again for the big pantomime – this time we saw Norman Wisdom and Linda Lusardi in Cinderella. It would be fair to say that a lot of the more risqué jokes went over my daughter's head, but she was completely transfixed during the whole pantomime. That really was a memorable performance by Norman Wisdom. He was always a hero of mine, and to see him perform in the pantomime was something that I will never forget. He was the ultimate king of slap-stick comedy, and perfect for panto!
Working at the Orchard myself, I am now in the lucky position of seeing the panto every year. I have enjoyed so many, and noticed that not all the stars strictly stick to their lines! There is often a new joke or a planned mishap that wasn't in there before, but it all adds to the fun and laughter.
I have always enjoyed pantomimes for the sheer fun of them, they are usually telling you a story that you know well but turned into something of a farce. With the right mix of starring celebrities and some well-tuned jokes, it makes for a very funny couple of hours.
Since my early trips to the pantomime with my daughter, my family is now quite extended, and it is a real pleasure to be able to take my grandchildren to share in the fun.
In these days of changing times, and a not always harmonious world, a family visit to a panto is a nice way of bringing everyone together; to enjoy the spectacle, share the laughter, and to make new memories for generations to come.
Mick Trembling is 65 years-old and lives in Kent. He has been a regular visitor to the Orchard Theatre since it was opened in April 1983 by the Duke of Kent. He is now retired and works as a volunteer usher at the venue.
Dartford Orchard Theatre's production of Cinderella opens on 9 December.