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What does it take to pull off a successful Christmas panto?

Pantomime season has officially arrived in Wales; a time when families come together and the young and old make or relive their childhood experiences.

Productions are held up and down the country, with everything from Cinderella at Cardiff New Theatre to Peter Pan at the Swansea Grand Theatre. Although some may not be the most traditional of Christmas stories, they have plenty in common. That being, high production value with big names such as Gok Wan and Tristan Gemmill, a sense of familiarity of watching a panto at Christmas, and the fact that laughs for all ages are practically guaranteed.

You’d be mistaken to think that a panto is just made up of a couple of stars and a handful of supporting actors and actresses though. In fact, it takes an entire team of adults and children working on and off stage to pull these off.

So, what goes into making such memories? We take a look at what goes on behind the scenes at one of Wales’ most loved theatres…

The cast get their scripts approx 3 weeks before rehearsals start for this season’s panto. Could you remember all those lines?

With the the cast only first meeting on Press Launch day (usually held in September).

Credit: Swansea Grand Theatre

But then, they don’t meet as a full company until the first day of rehearsals which is the Monday (2nd December) of the week before their first performance. Which isn’t very long really, is it?

It is all-hands on deck for the “get-in” at 9am on Sunday 8th December, with the aim to set-up and ready to start technical rehearsals by Wednesday morning.

Credit: Swansea Grand Theatre
Credit: Swansea Grand Theatre

Technical and dress rehearsals take place all day on Wednesday and Thursday, ahead of opening for the first performance on Friday (13th December) afternoon.

Which almost always goes to plan of course…

It is safe to say that it all looks incredibly fun, but also a lot of hard work!

Fun facts that you didn’t know…

  • Swansea Grand Theatre will welcome over 30,000 patrons during this panto season
  • There are 7 Dame costume changes in each performance, so that doesn’t give Kevin Johns (aka Mrs Smee) very long to whip those elaborate dresses on
  • The production of Peter Pan is made up of 39 adults working on the production plus 22 children
  • The theatre will sell over 10,500 ice-creams panto-goers
  • And 522 pyrotechnics will be fired over the whole run… now that’s a lot of ‘fairy dust’!

Of course, Qdos Entertainment, behind these productions are no strangers to the stage. Qdos are about to enter their 38th year of entertaining families, boasting a whopping 754 pantomimes to their name. This year, they will produce 35 pantomimes that stretch from Scotland, to Northern Island, England and Wales. As soon as this season is over, it’s back to the London office, where alongside two production centres in Yorkshire, a team of over 50 full-time staff work on everything from casting, script writing, and creating and maintaining sets and costumes.

This year’s simultaneous staging of 35 pantomimes is estimated to entertain over two million theatregoers.

Take a look at these incredible facts…

  • 44,000 pyrotechnics will be fired
  • 9.000 dame costume changes will take place
  • 5,000 hand held props will be used
  • 3,600 ‘It’s Behind Yous’ will be shouted
  • 3,000 sheets of hand-painted flooring will be laid
  • 1,801 performances will take place
  • 1,225 scripts will be printed
  • 1,000 clothes will be flown
  • 780 auditions will have taken place
  • 326 transformation scenes will occur
  • 100 trucks will be loaded
  • 75 photo shoots will have taken place
  • 10 titles will be staged
  • 5 pantomime cows will feature on stage
  • 5 magical lamps will be rubbed
  • 2 beanstalks will grow

This year’s swashbuckling Swansea Grand pantomime, Peter Pan, is showing until 12th January 2020. Tickets are still available from £13. For more information and to book, click here.

Cinderella, starring Gok Wan, Mike Doyle, Ceri Dupree and Phil Butler sashays into Cardiff’s New Theatre from Saturday 7 December until Sunday 12 January 2020. Tickets, priced from £19 are available from newtheatrecardiff.co.uk or on 029 2087 8889.