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Anthony Stuart-Hicks & Dale Superville

With Panto season rapidly approaching, I caught up with two award-winning panto dames, Anthony Stuart-Hicks (abbreviated to A) and Dale Superville, aka Humphrey the Camel (abbreviated to H), to discuss this years upcoming Panto of Aladdin at the Mercury Theatre.

Firstly, for those who may not know and by way of introduction, how would you sum up what you do?

A: This is my twenty-fifth year in show business. When not in ‘Pantoland’, I spend the majority of my time producing theatre across the country and I’m also an industry consultant and mentor. Aladdin marks my sixth season as Dame at The Mercury Theatre.

H: By introduction I’m a teenage camel who has walked on sand for many years and is happy to be walking the boards.

How did you both get into theatre – has it always been part of your life?

A: I started performing at a really young age and worked professionally during my years in education before finishing A Levels and continuing to work as an actor and producer. I’ve done screen work, but theatre is really my comfort zone. I need a live audience to really thrive. Pantomime has always been a constant in my career – I love it! It’s hard work to get it right but it is worth it to experience the reaction of the crowd at every show.

H: I got into theatre by using the door. Never thought about it until my mate said there might be candy floss on the stage… I love candy floss.

It’s been an incredibly tough year for the arts, so what had you been doing to keep yourself busy over the past year?

A: I’ve been utilising my time mentoring other professionals in the industry across a variety of matters: career development, business formation, sustainability. I am a mentor for the Mercury Creatives Programme and will have mentored eighteen members of the cohort by the time the programme concludes in March 2022. I also consult on various themes for other producers, venues, and creatives primarily on contractual matters and investment.

H: I’ve been keeping myself busy this year, eating mostly.

This year’s production is Aladdin, so what can you tell us about the show?

A: We are very fortunate to have another cast of supremely talented performers to be silly alongside! The story is a familiar one, but with lots of new twists and turns to enhance it and it has lashing of merry mayhem and chaos throughout.

H: They sent me the play to read, but I thought it was food so I ate it.

Can you give a teaser to any of the songs that may feature?

A: As usual, a really eclectic mix of musical numbers. Something for everyone to sing along to. The theatre is going to ROCK!

H: They don’t sing A-ga-soo! – one of my favourites.

You actually won an award for the Best Ugly Sisters at the Great British Pantomime Awards – what was that experience like?

A: It was a wonderful surprise to win and especially to share that success with Dale was joyous. I watched the ceremony online as it was during the initial lockdown so no live event could take place in a theatre as per previous years – having said that I was still very nervous, very shocked and ecstatic to win.

H: Sorry, I think you have me mixed up with someone else.

You’re returning to the Mercury Theatre in their reopening season after their renovation – what do you think of the new building and how is it being back on their boards?

A: The entire theatre has been re-born! There have been nips, tucks and full reconstructions – it’s so much more accessible, brighter, the atmosphere is fantastic plus the new menu is so good! I feel very at home on the Mercury stage – it’s an intimate auditorium and I like that, I like being close to the crowd so we can really go on the panto journey together with a much laughter as possible.

H: Being at the Mercury is great. You need to try the food!

And what is it about Panto at the Mercury that keeps you coming back every year?

A: The audiences are truly fantastic! Very supportive and warm. They have no idea how much that means to us! The production values are also excellent; working on a new set with new costumes every year is so exciting.

H: Candy Floss.

If you could switch roles with another Panto character for a night, who would it be and why? It can be from another Panto.

A: The Fairy Godmother. I’d love to be able to make people’s wishes come true with just a swish of wand. Or Captain Hook in Peter Pan – that would be the only non-dame role I’d ever consider playing with Dale as Smee, of course.

H: I love being a camel. I wouldn’t change for anyone.

With so many Christmas shows to choose from in the region – tell people why they should come to the Mercury Theatre.

A: In my opinion, The Mercury IS the home of Pantomime in the region. The venue take great care in the detail, not just on the show but the entire audience experience, from the moment you enter – we all want you back year after year. No show is the same (a personal promise) it is for the audience and high value for money. Aladdin is going to be a hilarious spectacle that everyone will enjoy.

H: One of the most fabulous Dames in the country is at the Mercury Theatre. You’d be a fool to miss her!

Last but not least, what is your favourite thing about Christmas?

A: Making memories, feeling festive with family and friends, and getting in front of that audience.

H: Candy Floss!

Thank you to Anthony and Dale, aka Humphrey for their time!

Aladdin runs at the Mercury Theatre from 27th Nov 2021 – 16th Jan 2022. For more information or to book visit mercurytheatre.co.uk.

Molly Richardsonhttp://www.GrapevineLIVE.co.uk
Molly has a passion for all things entertainment. When not at the theatre, cinema or a concert, she's often found reviewing or blogging about it!
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