Harrogate Theatre panto legend on why it's a 'privilege' to be coming back
The biggest legend of Harrogate Theatre’s panto says it’s still an enormous “privilege” to share Christmas with audiences in the town - as he and the cast gear up for a programme of 75 shows this festive season.
When actor Tim Stedman steps on stage in the role of Buttons at the launch of Cinderella next week it will his 21st year in Harrogate’s magical panto.
But, despite leaving his family home in Newbury each year to play the fool for audiences for nearly two months, the hilarious Stedman says he wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“I live in Newbury but I will be six days a week is Harrogate - acting, singing, dancing and being funny and then on the seventh day I collapse in a chair until my three young daughters demand otherwise.
“It’s a wonderful privilege having the opportunity to share Christmas with Harrogate.
“I don’t take it for granted particularly in light of the last 18 months.
“Though it’s hard work it is hugely rewarding to share a magical and funny show with children and families in the Harrogate panto each year.”
Cinderella, which runs from November 24 to January 16 will see the theatre reopen to Harrogate audiences for the first time since lockdown.
Highly regarded on a nationwide basis for its wit and intelligence and lack of vulgarity or celebrity nonsense, Tim says he is delighted to be playing Buttons again.
In fact, it’s his all-time favourite panto role.
“The Harrogate Theatre panto has such a a lovely balance in that the story comes first and that then we put the fun on top. I love playing Buttons simply because there is the scope to give my “fool” a love interest., which allows you to play with pathos, melodrama and reality.
“For a comic actor you can’t beat the ridiculousness of an innocent’s outlook on life - whether that’s Charlie Chaplin or Mr Bean.
“The writers, David Bown and the late Phil Lowe are also fans of the Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise and Tommy Cooper."
After the sudden death of Harrogate Theatre panto’s director and co-writer Phil Lowe last month, Cinderella will be directed by respected director, writer and actor Joyce Branagh.
For Tim Stedman, this year’s family-friendly, festive extravaganza of fun will serve as a an unofficial tribute to a man who was always fun, well as talented.
“Phil was a gifted man and a wonderful husband and father.
“The first time I appeared in Harrogate panto, he gave me a Buddha as a first night present.
“Laden with my belongings to go home at the end of that season, I couldn’t carry everything so I left it in my dressing room.
“Each year my acting colleagues would get chocolates, a bottle of Port or something appropriate at the end of the run.
“But alway got that same Buddha from Phil.
“I would try to hide it on his chair, or in his hood or on the bonnet of his car only to re-receive it the following November!
“ He brought us a lot of sunshine and leaves us all with many happy memories.”
Harrogate Theatre and Joyce Branagh
This year’s pantomime at Harrogate Theatre will be directed by Joyce Branagh, following the sudden death of Harrogate Theatre’s pantomime director and co-writer, Phil Lowe.
She is also a well-respected writer of pantomime having written for South Hill Park Arts Centre and Cast in Doncaster. She was nominated for Best Script at the British Pantomime Awards in 2018.
Joyce served on Harrogate Theatre’s Board from 2013 to 2019 and was also the Chair for the final year.
Joyce has a wealth of pantomime experience having directed for Watford Palace Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse and most recently at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.
David Bown, the theatre’s chief executive, said: “Joyce has a panto pedigree that speaks for itself, and we are hugely grateful to her for stepping in.”
Cinderella runs at Harrogate Theatre on November 24 until January 16, 2022.
Tickets are on sale from www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk