Pantomime 2023 – A First

Tom Dyer as Fleshcreep

A dream of mine came true in December 2022. I became a professional actor.

Jack & the Beanstalk came to the Boulevard Theatre in Milford Haven and there was a very familiar face in the Big Pembs Panto, and I’m not talking about Love Island’s, Jack Fincham either.

Tom enjoying some down time backstage with Jack and Conor

Pure West Radio‘s own Tom Dyer, me (Fleshcreep), made his professional stage debut alongside fellow debutant Kelly Jackson as the Woodland Fairy, and experienced actors, Elinor Crane (Princess Jill), Conor Hanley (Silly Simon) and production Director and Dame, Drew Baker. Add to this stellar cast the different groups of ‘Beans’, the juvenile cast, and you’ve got a brilliant show on your hands.

This is far from my first production. I’ve been performing for ten years now, but I’ve never been paid to take on over 20 shows in a UK tradition and institution. I’m so proud.

The biggest difference that was apparent early on was the difference in rehearsal time. Amateur productions that take place alongside work and life can las anywhere between 3 and 6 months, rehearsing for a couple of hours a few evenings a week. It can feel quite like social club that has a show at the end.

Panto rehearsal period, a matter of days!

That’s right, we rehearsed a whole show in about a week. That was a major shift in mentally. Getting up in the morning and knowing I was going to spend a whole day in a studio. So cool.

Dancing, script work, blocking all in a week and then performed in front of an audience. Not even the ice could stop us – it caused a loss of a rehearsal day, but we still did it.

Tom dancing with some of the ‘Beans’ to open Act 2

Fleshcreep, just saying the word aloud goes through me. He’s the bad guy in this production. He serves the giant, has a sinister way about him and is a great big meany. I hope, that anyone who knows me doesn’t automatically think that I am guy in real life. However, I had reassurances from Drew that nice people can play great bad guys. But it does mean getting used to being booed.

And you know what, I really did enjoy myself. It is fun being a bad guy. I thought taking on a comedy role would be more fun, it looks exhausting though! I would still do it in a heartbeat though! As the bad guy, a Gaston type of bad guy, you get to saunter around for much of it. Breaking into different characters and joining in some fun and games along the way too.

Silly Simon, Jack, Daisy the Cow and Fleshcreep

It’s surprising to note that I haven’t actually seen very many Pantomime’s. So the basis of my character was very much devised in the rehearsal room. It’s also very intimidating knowing that you’re taking to the stage when some, if not most, of the audience already have a pre-conceived notion as to what Fleshcreep should look and feel like.

Knowing there are kids in the audience also changes the dynamic. They’re there to scream and boo and take part, but is there such a thing as taking it too far? I’ll be honest, there were 3 occasions that I know of where I had to be a little kind before the interval; the opening scene with the Woodland Fairy was a frightening one. One thing I’ll never forget is taking to the stage to open Act 2 with a lovely rendition of One Way or Another with a small group of Beans and receiving no applause at the end of it before starting my monologue.

Woodland Fairy and Fleshcreep were friends really

Prior to the Pantomime the longest show run I had been involved in was 14 shows over two weeks which included two matinees in the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival. The pantomime show was penned to be 28 I think. Two show days every day with one three show day in the run. We knew we had Christmas Day off before the run but the prospect was both exciting and gruelling.

Just two of the unsung, unseen heroes of any production, Katie and Emily, the Dame’s dressers.

Thankfully, with the cast and the production team we had, even the more trying days were still enjoyable. Illness and ice couldn’t stop me from having fun, from absorbing the whole experience and learning from those with vastly more experience than me. Conor has since gone on to make his West End Debut in Choir of Man, reprising his role as The Poet. At the time of writing, I am 48 hours away from watching him and I’m so proud!

The senior cast from Jack & the Beanstalk

I am very excited for the future and to all opportunities that come my way. I can’t wait to share it with you. Who knows where you’ll find me next.

Tom waving after the curtain call

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