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Sue Holderness and S Club 7's Tina Barrett look forward to Chatham's pantos at the Central Theatre and the Britannia Theatre

By Clare Freeman

Although she shot to fame as Marlene in Only Fools and Horses, pantomime has always been the highlight of actress Sue Holderness’ year.

This Christmas will be her 27th pantomime season and sees her appear as the wicked Malevolent in The Central Theatre’s production of Beauty and the Beast.

She said: “People are funny about pantomime – some people are quite scathing about it. I don’t know why they are because this is when kids learn to love theatre and this is going to be our new generation of theatre-goers.

Beauty and the Beast is Sue Holderness' 27th pantomime.
Beauty and the Beast is Sue Holderness' 27th pantomime.

“I think pantomime is terribly important. It’s got everything in it, especially this one. Beauty and the Beast has a wonderful love story, it’s got very good comedy and it’s got this sort of scary woman in the middle. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”

It is the second year Jordan Productions is producing the theatre’s pantomime after the success of Aladdin last year. The production opens on Thursday and also stars X Factor and Celebrity Big Brother sensation Stevi Ritchie as pot washer Potty Pierre.

The cast also includes Sarah Lark, a finalist in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2008 talent show, I’d Do Anything, as Fairy Formidable, Katy Ray as Beauty, and Michael Neilson as the traditional panto dame Dotty Derier.

Stevi Ritchie as Potty Pierre, Sue Holderness as Malevolent, Michael Neilson as Dame Dotty Derier, Katy Ray as Beauty, and Sarah Lark as Fairy Formidable.
Stevi Ritchie as Potty Pierre, Sue Holderness as Malevolent, Michael Neilson as Dame Dotty Derier, Katy Ray as Beauty, and Sarah Lark as Fairy Formidable.

Sue added: “We’ve got the lovely musicians. Some pantomimes no longer have musicians, they do it all on tape, but we’ve got a real live band and we’ve got a wonderful, very gifted chorus.

“So it’s spectacle and colour and light and sound, it’s really very thrilling. There’s nothing you can’t get from pantomime. And every generation, three-year-olds to 93-year-olds, can all come and all love it.

“I don’t think there was ever a year when we missed pantomime. I think it should be a part of the tradition of every single family, and if you want to choose a pantomime that’s really perfect for everybody, Beauty and the Beast is a jolly good one.”

Derek Griffiths, Marcquelle Ward and Tina Barrett star in the Britannia Theatre's pantomime.
Derek Griffiths, Marcquelle Ward and Tina Barrett star in the Britannia Theatre's pantomime.

Also opening this week is the Britannia Theatre's Dick Whittington - a show with star names including singer Tina Barrett from S Club 7, legendary children’s entertainer Derek Griffiths, panto dame David Phipps-Davis, Marcquelle Ward from Britannia High and former Hollyoaks stars Paul Danan and Joe Tracini.

Tina is playing Fairy Bowbells in her third time in panto and is looking forward to coming to Chatham.

The singer has appeared on stage in pantomime before, in Beauty and the Beast in Chesterfield and The Wizard of Oz in Peterborough last year.

She said: “I’m really excited to be doing another panto. My favourite part is King Rat’s character, it is quite dark for a kids show, so its definitely for adults as well.

S Club 7's Tina Barrett.
S Club 7's Tina Barrett.

“It’s the first time I’ve been to the area so I’m pleased that there’s quite a lot of shops around and the countryside is nearby. I’m looking forward to exploring.”

Beauty and the Beast is at The Central Theatre, High Street, Chatham, until Sunday, January 3. Tickets start at £15 from www.medwayticketslive.co.uk or the box office on 01634 338338.

Dick Whittington is at The Britannia Theatre, Dickens World, until Sunday, January 3. Tickets start at £12.50 from www.thebritanniakent.com or the box office on 0844 858 6656.

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