Meet the Cast: Manor Operatic Society

As 2018 nears its end, the sound of the Manor Operatic Society booting up for the festive panto season reverberates. We talk lamp rubbing, flying carpets and the reason why panto is such a highlight of the Christmas holidays with Aladdin himself (James Smith), the Genie (Liam Gordon), Wishee Washee (Chris Hanlon), Abanazar (Simon Hance), Widow Twanky (Bob Spink), PC Hugh (Callum Fellows) and PC Mee (Gary Rossitor).

Thanks for chatting to us guys! How is prep for Aladdin going?
Robert: I think everything is pretty much on track, yeah.
Gary: Oh no it isn’t!
Robert: Oh yes it is! There’s still a lot to do but everyone’s picking it up pretty quickly.
Simon: It’s that difficult time of the year where everyone has put the script down and is trying to run through it. It’s not tripping off the tongue yet but we’re at the right stage we need to be at this point.

Is Aladdin a show you’ve done before? If so, which character did you play?
Liam: Aladdin was my first show and panto when I joined the Manor Operatic Society. It was quite daunting being part of it but Chris (who plays Wishee Washee this time round),was like a veteran and took me under his wing!
Simon: The first time I was Wishee Washee, second time Widow Twanky, third time Abanazar and this year Princess Jasmine! (Laughter). No, I’m having another run at Abanazar – you can’t beat playing the villain!
Without giving too much away, what can we expect from Aladdin?
Liam: A lot of magic!
Simon: Without giving the plot away, a lamp gets rubbed and a genie springs to life!
Chris: From an audience perspective, what you’ve come to expect from us is something that’s lavish, traditional, family-orientated but also a really, really good night out.
Simon: Lots of double entendres!

Do you have a favourite panto?
James: My favourite pantomime is Cinderella because I really enjoy playing Buttons and putting a different spin on it.
Simon: This is a difficult one but I’m going to have to say the same! Especially when I’ve played the ugly sisters as you have free reign, carte blanche, to go a little bit wild.

Panto is a huge tradition for many at Christmas, why do you think that is?
Chris: It’s the one time of the year that the whole family gets together; pretty much everyone has some time off over Christmas.
Callum: It’s the festive spirit. Everyone wants to see a fairytale relived from their childhood and share those stories with their own kids.

How do you think panto has changed over the years?
James: It’s a lot more technical. Effects, flying, projections, stage effects. Years ago it relied more on slapstick comedy. There’s still aspects of that, but there’s a lot more technicality now.
Liam: For an actor it’s great because you’re given a script as a foundation and then you’ve got the free will to do what you want with it. You can improvise and create stuff from the script and as an actor that’s the best thing you can do.

Q+A with Manor Operatic director and producer Richard Bradford

How long have you been with Manor?
I’ve been here since I was a young boy! It’s my 33rd year and ninth year as producer-director.

Have you done Aladdin before?
I’ve done Aladdin several times! I’ve been Aladdin twice, I’ve directed it twice, played Wishee Washee twice – I’ve done it many times!

What can we expect from the show?
One of the things with Aladdin is the flying carpet. We may or may not be flying a carpet into Sheffield City Hall. To find out, watch this space…

And of course Manor Operatic support a different charity every year…
We like to get involved with a lot of charities in Sheffield. They write in and it’s a difficult process to choose which one to work with. Rather than dilute it, we select two different ones every year. We try to stick to the local charities because we feel it’s important for us to give back to the local community.

How has theatre changed in the time you’ve been involved?
I think theatre has changed, not just in panto but across the board. The standard of amateurs is through the roof, it’s even knocking on the door of high-end professionalism, not just professionalism. Our panto is as good, if not better, than most professional pantos out there.

Manor Operatic’s Aladdin opens at Sheffield City Hall on 27 December and runs until 6 January. For tickets, head to Image: Kevin Cheeseright 

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