The Pantomime, Cinderella is a popular Christmas tradition for all the family. However, most will not remember a time they didn’t endeavour on the annual ritual, even when they enter their adult years.
On the 1st of December, Cinderella will begin showing at Salford Arts Theatre for a whole month.
The key to ‘The Panto’ having remained so popular for centuries, is that it has developed with the times as well as keeping the long-running aspects of the show in place.
From around the late 1600’s, comedic characters known as ‘Harlequins’ used props like a magic wand to hit their fellow actors, and along with this came a slapping noise – hence ‘slapstick comedy.’ However, as the show moved into the Victorian era, ‘Harlequinades’ merged with music halls to create the traditional Christmas fare known today.
Leigh Manning, who plays ‘Buttons’ in Salford’s Cinderella said: ‘It’s got dances, songs, love stories and jokes and slapsticks and men dressed in wigs. There’s something for everybody.’
However, adding a modern twist on The Panto, Salford’s real-life Cinderella, Sarah-Leanne Howe said that the cast have time for the audience.
She told us: ‘We come out and have pictures, If they’re in the bar, we have a drink and a chat.’
Pantomimes, this one especially, surround the idea of breaking the fourth wall, and allowing the audience to get in on the action and participate.
Paige Rochelle, who plays the wicked Step-Mother in the show, said this was an important factor when she was a young audience member.
She said: ‘Other shows you just sit and watch it but I could go with my family and I got to get involved.’
The three cast members all agreed that ‘the panto’ was a key part to their Christmas when they were younger, and they’re not alone in their Christmas traditions with 2.9 million tickets being sold for the panto in 2015.
Sarah-Leanne said: ‘Pantos are the reason I started performing.’
‘My mum’s birthday is the 27th of December so it would be a tradition that we would go and watch the local panto. I remember they used to get kids up at the end for the big song and I would be like ‘Pick me!’ They never did, so when I got to be panto babe it was like ‘yes!’
Currently, the cast are having a week’s break before rehearsals pick up again, when they will practice off-script and with the band. They have already done a two-day run-through so they can get to know their scripts and their fellow actors.
Sarah-Leanne said: ‘These two days are good because you get to know each other. Especially with panto, a good cast bond is really important.’
She added: ‘Especially at Christmas, there’s nothing better than feeling like you’ve got another family.’
Both Leigh and Paige agreed that the cast feels like a family for the whole of December.
Last year, Paige did a touring pantomime with only herself and another actor. She said she felt as though she missed out on the team environment.
She told us: ‘It’s really nice to come into somewhere even where they’ve known each other before and they’re so welcoming. We’re starting to build a team kind of thing.’
It’s Leigh and Sarah’s second pantomime at Salford Arts Theatre. Both returning because they enjoyed the experience they had last year at the theatre.
Leigh said: ‘Rehearsals are the biggest joy for us because we get to laugh at the jokes first. Even now I know some are still going to get me every single show.’
He added: ‘I can already start seeing the finished product. And I just know how exciting it is going to be for new audience members and returning audience members. A real traditional Christmas pantomime.’
The show is a real, feel-good, warm, Christmas production that all the family can enjoy.
There are no ‘big stars’ in Salford’s panto, which has seemingly become a modern tradition for these kinds of shows. There are just ‘really talented performers,’ who all play a vital role in bringing the show together. The connections and chemistry Salford’s actors have on stage is key to making the erformance the best it can be.
The Panto is aimed at all ages, and there is something for everyone.
Leigh said: ‘No matter what age you are, if you’re a kid, a teenager, a parent. It’s really, really, really fun.’
He even encouraged students to come along and get involved in the show, and there’s a little enticement for them – ‘a cheeky little bar.’
He added: ‘Come to the theatre. Come and watch the panto.’
Salford Arts Theatre’s showing of Cinderella runs from the 1st December until 31st December. Tickets are available on the website or call the box office on 0161 925 0111.