It's panto time again... and it's a beauty, says May McFettridge
Like mistletoe, mulled wine and presents from Santa, the festive season just wouldn't be the same without...panto.
Ok, so it's not even Halloween, but attention is fast turning to all things Christmas and the Grand Opera House in Belfast has officially launched its festive season.
From November 30 to January 19, 2014 Belfast theatre-goers, big and small, will be treated to the enchanting story of Sleeping Beauty.
Everyone's favourite panto star, May McFettridge, will be back in action as Queen May, while former Emmerdale actress Lorraine Chase takes on the role of Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy.
Paddy Jenkins plays the King, Ciaran Nolan has been cast as Slimeball and the Hillsborough actress Rhiannon Chesterman, who is fresh from a UK tour of Hairspray, takes on the title role of Sleeping Beauty.
Speaking at the launch of Sleeping Beauty at the Culloden Hotel yesterday, May McFettridge – aka John Linehan – said he can't wait to get going with his 24th panto season at the Grand Opera House.
"I have a brilliant time every year," he said.
"I'm in my hometown and I love that I can be home in bed for 11.30pm every night!
"It's also a great vehicle for young kids.
"Maybe it's their first time in a theatre, at a live show, so it's great for everyone."
The quick-quipping pantomime veteran says he enjoys the fact that the Christmas show is for everyone.
"These days kids are used to shooting birds or racing cars on computers, but they still love the slapstick in the theatre," he added.
"It makes people laugh, from young kids to 90."
Meanwhile, Sleeping Beauty's executive producer and director, Jonathan Kiley, described the show as "unmissable".
"Audiences can be guaranteed a fabulous night in pantoland with lots of traditional Northern Irish humour and comedy," he added.
"This, combined with top-drawer production values, means that no-one will dare fall asleep during this fast-paced telling of Sleeping Beauty."
The show opens on November 30 and runs until January 19, 2014.
Andrew Hill, chief executive of the Grand Opera House, said: "We are really looking forward to watching May and Lorraine's relationship unfold on stage as we celebrate what will be May's 24th pantomime.
"Sleeping Beauty promises to be a truly spectacular production with lots of laughs and festive sparkle along the way."
'If you're not sure about that blouse, then don't wear it at the show!'
Panto Dame May has a special message for Belfast Telegraph readers .... and the Wicked Queen.
"I don't go in for the naff pantomime jokes and double entendre.
I prefer to sleg someone, who is baldy, in the front row or someone sipping champagne in the box.
I would do a lot of visual jokes, responding to whatever is in front of me, so if you're self conscious about a blouse or shirt that's maybe a bit over the top, don't give it an airing at the Grand Opera House.
I'm liable to ask you to stand up, or I will come down and sit on your knee.
Also, I'm looking at the Wicked Queen here today and she could be doing with some beauty sleep.
She should set the alarm clock for March!"