Pantomime leads break a leg

Dick Whittington is this year's panto at the Maltings
Dick Whittington is this year's panto at the Maltings

Well-wishers typically tell actors to “break a leg” before they go on stage to perform.

Unfortunately, that theatrical message of good luck did not last for Matt Lynch, due to play King Rat in Dick Whittington, this year’s panto at The Maltings.

With only a few days to go until rehearsals started, the young actor playing the villain of the show was involved in a sporting accident and broke his leg – in two places.

Plans for the production have been in full swing for most of the year, including extensive auditions in London during July, for which over 2,000 actors were submitted by their agents. The team from Bespoke Theatre whittled it down to only seven actors, including Matt.

Producer Alan Bowles explained: “After a very successful audition process earlier in the year, we received a call from Matt’s agent a few days ago, explaining that an extremely upset and disappointed Matt had been involved in a sports accident and had broken his leg in two places, and would be unable to take part in the show.

“We were obviously very disappointed, but after receiving IMN (Intramedullary Nailing) for breaks to both his tibia and fibia, we completely understood his decision to withdraw from the project!”

The search then began for another actor to bring the villainous King Rat to the Maltings stage.

Luckily director, Zoë Waterman, had previously worked with a young actor, who she felt would be perfect for the part. Fully expecting him to already be booked up for Christmas, with bated breath she made a last minute call, to see if he would be available at three days’ notice, to pack up and come to Berwick for a month!

London’s loss was Berwick’s gain as Martin Lomas was available, and delighted to join the cast and spend the festive season being booed and heckled!

After the excitement and a few late nights, the (now complete) cast and creative team finally convened at the Maltings Theatre last Monday morning to begin rehearsals.

This year’s show is again written by Morgan Brind so expect more of the wit, charm and above all humour that everyone has come to expect from his scripts.

Zoë said: “The cast this year are extremely talented, rehearsals are already in full swing, and I can tell you, it’s going to be a brilliant show. We wish Matt a speedy recovery, and we are very proud of Martin who has stepped up brilliantly!”

This will be the team’s fifth production at The Maltings, starting with Aladdin in 2010 and following up with Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella.

“It has been a wonderful place to spend Christmas for the last five years,” said Alan. “The welcome we receive from everyone at The Maltings, and throughout Berwick is always brilliant! We’ve made some real friends up here.

“Our thanks must go to Miles Gregory who initially let us have two weeks at his theatre, without any proof that we were any good - just a shared belief that Berwick deserves a quality Christmas pantomime, which is for many people their first introduction into the magic of live theatre, and so it is really important to get right.

“And a huge thank you to everyone at The Maltings who have supported us through the years, especially Matthew Rooke, Tamiko Mackie, Shona Hammon, Wendy Payn, Steve Percy and Jimmy Manningham.”

The cast this year features some familiar faces, Dan Smith (who played Cesspit in Jack and the Beanstalk and Ugly Sister in CInderella) is appearing as Dame Sarah the Cook, Louise Grantham (who was Fairy Godmother in Cinderella) is Fairy Bowbells and Ross Graham (who has appeared in all five productions , notching up an impressive 11 characters) is Alderman Fitzwarren.

Plus there are some extremely talented newcomers to the region: Luke Foster (Dick Whittington), Martin Lomas (King Rat), Beth Lockhart (Alice Fitzwarren) and Joseph Taylor (Idle Jack).

The show tells the tale of young Dick Whittington who moves to the bright lights of Berwick-upon-Thames to find his fortune. But the streets aren’t paved with gold and below them is an evil rat army plotting destruction. Dick’s going to need the help of his trusty cat Tommy if he’s to save the day.

Dick Whittington runs from December 15-30 at The Maltings – tickets are on sale.