Childhood dream turns into reality for pantomime producer
- Credit: Danielle Booden
From the moment he saw his first pantomime at the age of six, Ryan Holt was completely hooked.
Mesmerised by the comedy, music and the festive camaraderie, the experience became the catalyst for a dream of producing his own seasonal show.
Fast forward two decades and the 26-year-old from Corton, near Lowestoft, is now the proud owner of Spark Live Pantomimes, the company behind the sell-out annual performances at Beccles Public Hall.
After producing his first festive show at just 20 years old, Ryan now has five pantomimes under his belt, with hundreds of families passing through the doors year after year to watch his creations.
And despite government restrictions forcing this year’s production of Snow White to be postponed until 2021, he has become one of the only producers across Norfolk and Suffolk to stage two Covid-secure live Christmas shows.
Christmas Live, a seasonal variety show, took place last weekend, while Inside the Snowglobe, which begins on Saturday and runs for 18 performances, has all the elements of a traditional pantomime, including Santa and his elves, slapstick comedy and live vocals.
Mr Holt said: “When I saw my first panto Snow White, I remember sitting there completely wide eyed with amazement as it felt so magical. In high school I went to see Peter Pan with my mum and my nan and I couldn’t take my eyes off it, the feeling was the same.
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“My friend had a stage in his bedroom made out of a sandcastle pit, complete with smoke and all the technical stuff, and we would put on shows.
“I used to staple scenery to the ceiling of my room, my mum wondered what an earth I was doing.
“When I was 16 I set up the B&B Young People’s Theatre Group in Lowestoft with some friends to help give young people like me the chance to express themselves on stage through theatre.
“I was also fortunate enough to make the final 30 on BBC One’s Young Apprentice. I think all of these things gave me the impetus to take the plunge and set up my own production company.”
After Beccles Lido took over the operation of Beccles Public Hall in 2014, the directors carried out a community survey, which saw a pantomime top of the suggestion list for shows the public would like to see performed there.
“Ironically I had literally just offered the hall the opportunity to have an in-house pantomime,” said Mr Holt.
“I felt nervous the first year as it came with massive hype attached to it because it was the first professional pantomime going into Beccles and I needed to get it right to ensure audiences came back.
“Since then we have been very fortunate to have sell-out performances of productions like Dick Whittington and Sleeping Beauty.”
Final rehearsals for Inside the Snowglobe are now in full swing with a cast of five, including former BRIT School graduate Joe Press from Wroxham and Gilbert and Sullivan operatic singer Matthew Siveter, who is playing Dame Cinnamon Swirl.
Mr Holt said: “To me, Christmas is all about panto. I love the fact that you never know what is going to happen, that feeling of uncertainty and excitement of the unknown.
“As a producer I love looking through the gap in the curtain backstage and if I see the audience smile and laugh, then I know I’ve done my job properly. I just couldn’t let families down this year. It has been such a challenging time and I was determined to make sure a show went on.
“The first form of theatre for a child is pantomime and it’s fantastic to be in a position to make that first experience magical.”
Inside the Snowglobe is live on Beccles Public Hall’s stage from Saturday, December 19, to Christmas Eve, for three performances daily at 10.30am, 2.30pm and 6pm.
All children attending will receive a gift from Santa.
To book, visit www.becclespublichall.co.uk