When Sammy Jones was invited to go behind the scenes of MK Theatre’s pantomime Cinderella, she didn’t need asking twice!
“That bit is a killer!” he says lightheartedly as he passes us and plonks himself in the nearest seat.
Mind you, Brian Conley has just been thrown from a wall several times, and had fisticuffs with Prince Charming and Cinderella!
It’s mad, this panto stuff, and it’s brilliant, too.
Playing Buttons in Milton Keynes Theatre’s seasonal spectacular, Brian is the thread that sews the whole show together, so he’s barely perched himself in that chair before he vacates it again.
We’re watching the biggest and best panto for years from the wings, and it is every bit as good watching it side on in the dark, as it is sat in front of the stage – and we’ve done that a few times so far in this run, too.
In front of us, Gok Wan is swishing his Fairy GokMother cape, extending friendly smiles and arms to cast and crew, and using his time off the stage to ensure morale will never be allowed to dip below excitable.
Earlier, his beautiful little girl Dolly Dishcloth spent time making friends and influencing many more in the dressing rooms and corridors deep in the theatre.
Dolly is a delightful French bulldog, but she’s not the only four legged lovely taking attention at the theatre this evening.
The show’s resident horse, real name Omega, and pony, called Flick, are chilling before their big stage moments.
Their time in the limelight may be brief, but it is a show highlight.
Ensuring the animals are happy is paramount and they travel to and from Peterborough daily.
They are rewarded for their on stage efforts with tasty treats – an apple, a carrot and pony nuts are standard yummies, although tonight, one of the carrots has been snaffled by company manager Gareth Hopwood, who is nibbling contentedly.
“If he chooses not to do something you can’t make him,” ‘horse carer’ Anthony says of Omega’s moment in the spotlight, “but we’ve worked with Brian before.
“They have a great bond, and the trust is there.”
Watching the show in the wings is a little like taking a look at the inner workings of a proud and perfect grandfather clock; there is a whole lot going on behind that calm face, but the mechanics are perfectly executed.
To our right, one lonely silver shoe sits, temporarily forgotten.
Should I try to slip it on?
I pass up the sneaky opportunity – after all it’ll never fit. This sparkly little number belongs to Cinderella, of course, played by the beautiful Lauren Hall, and as the fabulous footwear proves, she DID go to the ball.
We’re hardly giving the game away when we say that she does get her Prince before the curtain falls, too.
By the time the show wraps up, and another audience leaves with smiles plastered across faces, we’ve got an altogether different take on the annual panto run.
We now know the secrets behind the special effects that dazzle stage front too, and can confirm that there is no magic involved with Cinderella’s carriage.
It really does fly, you know!
As the cast swap glitzy costumes for sweatpant ease and escape into the decidedly chilled night air, another performance perfectly executed, spare a thought for the guys in wardrobe, though; they are left to wash the small mountain of underwear generated every day, quite literally putting the pants into panto!
> Performances of the Milton Keynes Citizen sponsored Cinderella continue at MK theatre until January 14.
To book your seat visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes