Reading Time: 4 minutesWe step behind the scenes of the annual Hong Kong Players (HKP) Pantomime to get the low down. Oh yes we do!
This year’s pantomime is Dick Whittington, directed by Teri Fitsell and Karly Cox. Both have worked with HKP on pantomimes for many years – Teri writing and producing, Karly crewing and as stage manager. This is the first time they have directed pantomime together.
Q&A with Co-director Terri Fitsell
Q: Who usually writes the script/screenplay for the Pantomimes?
A: The script was was written by Karly Cox, along with Adam Hugill and Steve Imrie.
Many different people have written the script over the years (this is Players’ 62nd panto!) I’ve co-written eight over the past 12 years or so. This is Karly’s first panto script, along with Adam Hugill and Steve Imrie, and it’s hilarious – absolutely packed with jokes old and … older!
The story is always based on a fairy tale, or traditional children’s story and involves recognisable characters – heroes and villains, comic sidekicks and of course the irrepressible and outrageous Dame (this year played brilliantly by Josh Blue).
The humour works on two levels – fun and physical comedy for the kids, plus plenty of double entendres to keep the adults happy! While the story is traditional, we keep the humour current with references to current trends and popular culture – the Barbie movie will certainly be getting mention this year, and we habitually take the mickey out of DB Plaza!
Q: When do rehearsals start?
A: We do auditions in June, just before schools break up for summer holidays, then rehearsals start at the end of August, three times a week for three months. It’s a big commitment, especially considering everyone involved has a job or is at school, but we aim to make the show as professional and polished as possible.
Q: Who makes the costumes?
Q: Tell us about the panto cast?
A: We have a super-talented group of 10 Principals and 14 ensemble who are either Rats or Londoners. The singing is beautiful, under the guidance and hard work of Andrew Swift, our Musical Director, and Mary Champney, who will be leading the live band. We have worked with no fewer than five choreographers this year who have brought a variety of styles to the dances. Our ensemble are incredible – talented and very hard working – and the dances will blow you away.
Let’s meet this year’s Dame, Josh Blue!
Q: Is this your first time playing the Dame role?
A: It is not. This is my third time as Dame. In the mid-2000s I was one of three dames in Sleeping Beauty. I played ‘Teri the Training Fairy’. In 2019, I was called two weeks before the show opened to see if I could step in as Dame Mary Proper in, yes, you guessed, Sleeping Beauty, as the Dame who had been cast could no longer perform. So with two weeks before opening, I learned the lines, song and dances and away we went. This time I wanted to see if I could land the role on my own and well–the rest you’ll see on stage!
Q: What makes a good Dame?
Josh: Not knowing what Teri is going to say, I can only assume she said ‘Josh’. Haha, No in all seriousness, I think it’s the ability to be louder, bigger and brasher than anyone else on stage. You need to be comfortable improvising with the audience, bring heaps of energy into every scene and excellent comic timing also helps. You also have almost no inhibition—the cast, crew and often the audience will see parts of you only your partner’s seen by the time the whole thing is through!
Teri: A humongous sense of humour, a big personality and a phenomenal sense of fun – everything about the Dame is larger than life! Josh is bringing all three to the max – and he’s doing it in 6-inch heels!
Q: Tell us a bit about Dame Fanny’s (the Dame in Dick Whittington, THE PANTO) character?
Where to begin?!?! Aunt Fanny came to London to make her millions and let’s just say everything hasn’t gone to plan. She’s a bit cheeky, a bit bold and finds herself entirely amusing. She’s gorgeous of course and wears the most practical attire for her job as Housekeeper and Cook for the Baron. You’ll love her from the moment she steps onto to stage and she’ll happily take your number–wink wink.
Q: What’s been the biggest mishap during a performance?
In the past, I can think of Cinderella in 2008. I was playing ‘Buttons’ and we’d just had the sweet throwing scene and there were still sweeties littering the stage. The Fairy Godmother entered and slipped. I managed to catch her and ‘freeze’ the scene. I broke character and explained to the audience that this was an actor trap and we’d need the crew to sweep. They entered, swept and I looked back at the Fairy Godmother and said ‘Aaaaaannnnndddd Scene!’ and we popped back into character. The last time I was the Dame in 2019 we had a scene change incident and as I was about to wrap up my monologue I looked over and saw the stage manager signalling for me to stretch the scene….so I did — I’ve always got a few jokes down my blouse in case of an emergency!
Q: If you could pick anyone famous to perform in a HK players panto, who would it be?
Ian McKellan as Dame of course! Richard Griffiths voiced the giant before he passed for the HK Players. HK Players connected when he was in town for History Boys.
Hong Kong Players DICK Whittington is running 1-10 December, 2023
Suitable for age 3-93, this hilarious pantomime promises to be the ultimate festive treat for the whole family! Tickets are available from POPTicket and cost $295-$395.
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