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Features > Only A Footstep Away: The 2005 Panto by Billy, Claire, Karl, Lucy and Steve

The Date: Saturday 8th January 2005
The Time: 7.00pm
The Venue: Malvern Theatres, Great Malvern

On 8th January 2005, a small group of PerfectBlend.net members descended on the picturesque town of Great Malvern for one reason only, to see Alan Fletcher in the pantomime, Aladdin. Billy, Claire, Karl, Lucy and Steve came from all corners of the country (or only an hour up the road in Lucy's case) simply to go to a pantomime. Given that we'd booked our hotel and tickets in August, this trip had been a long time coming, and I think we were all very excited!

Billy, Karl and Lucy were all in Malvern by early afternoon, and so after checking into our hotel, The Great Malvern Hotel, just a stone's throw away from the theatre, we went to explore what the town had to offer and find somewhere to eat once Claire and Steve arrived. It should be mentioned at this point that Malvern is on a hill. Our hotel was halfway up the hill, and the town was at the top. We walked up and down this hill at least 3 times, in search of a restaurant that would actually serve meals at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon. We ended up back were we started at our hotel and the staff there recommended “The Red Lion” which had both snack and main menu serving after 12noon till late.

The panto was staged at Malvern Theatres which is home of two theatres and a cinema. We got there at least half an hour before the show started, so there was time to buy drinks, snacks and other souvenirs. As we booked back in August we managed to get very good seats, only 4 rows from the stage. The panto started with a musical melody of various songs including Mcfly's Obviously, which was sung later in the show with some of the lyrics changed. Interestingly the Neighbours theme tune wasn't played during this, and only the first few bars were played when Alan made his grand entrance. The second scene in, and Wishy Washy started on the call outs. Cue mass embarrassment from us all, hiding our faces in our programmes as we waited for him to mention us. As Claire screamed out to make sure everyone knew where we were sitting, the rest of us shrunk in our seats and giggled nervously.

For several of us, it was the first trip to see a panto, so we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. For the most part, we were pleasantly surprised, and soon realised that we’d have to join in with various games and… Christmas tree dances, if we were to get the most out of the experience. Predictably, we found ourselves targeted during a sequence with a water pistol and there were a few Neighbours references, including Widow Twanky telling Abanazar that it wasn't his baby. This sent a lot of the audience into hysteria, and it seemed that this was an ad lib, as it had probably been shouted out at many of the previous performances! Abanazar also had two slaves in his cave by the name of Susan and Izzy, and one of the other characters mentioned Kylie Minogue and her past as a Neighbours actor.

After the panto, we asked an usher where to go to get autographs and were duly directed to the stage door. We stood outside for only a couple of minutes before Alan appeared. As all the rest of the cast wandered on past unhampered, Alan signed autographs for everyone. We got to have a bit of a chat, and he thanked us for the site, whilst signing all our programmes and posing for pictures.

After having a drink at the theatre, we walked back to the hotel. As we walked into the bar, we noticed a number of the cast there. After settling down with a drink, Alan walked in and, according to the barmaid, our stunned expressions spoke volumes. We found out that the cast spent most evenings in a private room at our hotel, and several of them said “hi” to us as we sat in the corner, trying to look like we spent every evening mingling with D-list celebrities.

After having lunch together on Sunday, again at The Red Lion, we all went our separate ways. It was certainly a weekend to remember though, and I'm sure we'll be doing it again next year.

For more information, visit the Malvern Theatres website, here, the Great Malvern Hotel website, here and Alan Fletcher's website, here.