Dangerous life of Harrogate Theatre's panto legend!

Actor Tim Stedman in a rare off-duty moment from the Harrogate Theatre panto.
Actor Tim Stedman in a rare off-duty moment from the Harrogate Theatre panto.

Harrogate Theatre’s hugely popular annual panto may be one of the most enjoyable jobs for an actor but it can also be one of the toughest.

With Aladdin about to end its run in just over a week’s time, one of its biggest stars Tim Stedman is nearing the finishing line of what can be the acting equivalent of competing in the Tour de France.

To say it’s a busy schedule for Tim and the rest of the cast is to understate the case.

There are two performances of Aladdin most days with each performance lasting two-and-a-half hours, including a short interval.

And this goes on for almost seven weeks!

This year’s show has been rated one of the best-ever. As well as the jokes and the songs, there are also plenty of crowd-pleading stunts, some of which would test the agility of James Bond, even.

Playing the dame Wishee Washee in what incredibly is his 16th year at Harrogate Theatre, audience favourite Tim finds himself getting caught in a giant laundry machine then thrown back out in a mess of soapy suds at one point in Aladdin.

He said: “It’s all stage managed safely with rubber mats inside but my daughter, who is four-years-old, made me ring her up the first time I did it to find out if I was okay!”

Despite taking all the required precautions in this era of health and safety, Tim says the odd knock is inevitable.

“I’m always covered in bruises. I’m covered in them now.I was once thrown across the stage and was meant to slide to safety but ended up crashing into the proscenium arch!”

An acknowledged master of humour and slapstick, Tim looks forward to taking a cental role at Harrogate Theatre’s panto each year.

Such is his dedication, having moved into his Harrogate 'digs' a five-minute walk from the theatre in panto season, (his normal home is down in Newbury) Tim sticks to a a rigorous health regime as if he was in training for a major sports event.

In a way, he is a victim of his own success, he admits.

“As I’ve got more comfortable over the years in panto, I’ve got more physical, which is more tiring. It seems there’s nothing funnier to a five-year-old than me falling over!”

Anyone who still doubts the level of commitment it takes to do panto, should contemplate this simple statistic: each year Tim loses three-quarters of a stone in weight during panto season.

Not that this panto phenomenon is complaining. In fact, he loves it as much as the audiences he does so much to entertain.

“It doesn’t feel like hard work to me. It’s always worth the effort. My favourite bit is when I’m doing a big roundaround on the stage and when I run past I can hear the crowd saying stuff to me like “I think you’re great” which is sweet.”

Aladdin is at Harrogate Theatre until Sunday, January 17. Tickets are available at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk