The secrets behind the festive panto

By | Entertainment
Starring Stephen Mulhern from Britain’s Got Talent as Buttons, Lisa Davina Phillip, who jumps from the West End Stage of Matilda into her fairy godmother and Joanna Sawyer as Cinderella.

The Positive’s child writer Yasmin Giannini, aged 10 years, caught up with the all-star cast of Cinderella to find out the secrets behind the exciting festive panto!

Croydon is set to have its best panto ever as it predicts record sales for this year’s all-star production of Cinderella. As fans of the Fairfield Halls’ yearly festive show, I was really excited when they invited me along to meet the cast and to get a behind-the-scenes peek at the surprises that they have in store for us.

Wow! This is going to be an incredible panto. Starring Stephen Mulhern from Britain’s Got Talent as Buttons, alongside Lisa Davina Phillip, who jumps from the West End Stage of Matilda into her fairy godmother dress for her first ever panto and Joanna Sawyer as Cinderella – this is a panto that’s full of stars we all love.

Fabulous cast!

Fabulous cast!

Super Stephen Mulhern played one of his first ever panto roles in Croydon over 10 years ago, stepping on stage as Buttons in Cinderella. Now, a decade on, he’s back in the same place, playing the same part and he’s bursting with excitement about it:

I love Croydon. I wish I had been back here sooner. I first played Cinderella here and now I’m back doing it again – it’s my favourite panto tale,” explains the TV star.

“Buttons is my best role in panto without a doubt. If I [may] play Buttons every year I might. I get to do happy, pathos and humour all in one show – I love it!” beams Stephen with the biggest smile in the world.

We meet Stephen and he was SO wonderful!

We meet Stephen and he was SO wonderful!

I felt compelled to ask Steven about the joke played on him by Ant & Dec on Saturday Night TV whilst he was in panto with Aladdin – Stephen laughed a lot about this:

“Ha ha ha! Far from again may they come to my panto!” shrieked Stephen , “Emma Willis and Holly Willoughby may definitely come, instead of Ant & Dec. After that last practical joke, stay away!” Ooooh, I think he’s secretly hoping for a sequel on that one Ant & Dec!

The laughter bubbling from Stephen was significantly different compared to the madly colourful characters of the Step Sisters, played this year by Stewart Wright (Doc Martin and many other shows) and Matt Daines who doubles up as the show’s director. These  dames let me into a few backstage secrets about costume changes and very bright make-up:

“Panto is all about unexpected changes, it’s an essential part of the tradition of panto and we write a lot of the unexpected changes into the script from the start. However then real unexpected changes happen by chance and they can be the funniest thing you’ve ever seen, so we keep them and add them into the show to make it even better,” explained Matt.

“I’m a mischievous performer,” laughs Stewart with a cheeky grin, “ I like trying to put people off if I can, so I’ll be throwing a few unexpected little bits into the show just for a laugh. However I unable to tell you what they are, you’ll just have to watch Matt giggle on stage and you’ll know it’s happened.”

Amazing costumes!

Amazing costumes!

However how do they cope with all those fantastic costume changes into giant and very ostentatious dresses? “13 changes in one show means there’s a lot of Velcro, a lot of challenges and a lot of hands flagging around back stage,” say the sisters, “It’s going to be so much fun!”

If the fun and joking of the cast during our lunch is anything to go by, Cinderella at The Fairfield Halls is going to be the funniest panto in the UK this year. However Stephen Mulhern has one final piece of advice for us all:

“My advice to the audience is SIT NEAR THE BACK!!” He may leave his explanation there, however the twinkle in his eye means it’s going to be a lot of FUN!!! I am so looking forward to it!

Cinderella opens on Friday 4th December and aims to run until Sunday 3rd January. Tickets are on sale from the Fairfield Halls Box Office 020 8688 9291 or online at


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