Norwich's Drive-Thru Pantomime star created The Tweenies

Actors Craig Hollingsworth as Simon Trott and Iain Lauchlan as Dame Trott 

Craig Hollingsworth as Simon Trott and Iain Lauchlan as Dame Trott - Credit: Chloe Ely Photography

He may have started his TV career going through the round window in an iconic children’s TV show, but Iain Lauchlan remains a big favourite with a young audience.

Iain has written, directed and stars in Jack and the Beanstalk, a drive-in pantomime screening which will be screened with Pop Up Pictures at the Norfolk Showground from Saturday December 19 to Tuesday December 22.

Playing a number of characters in the show including the Dame and the Giant, he promises the show - set in Prickly Bottom during Lockdown 17.5 - will be a fun-filled experience. 

He said: “I wanted to make it more than just a recording of a theatre show, so it is filmed in a studio in the same way as you would film children’s programmes so we can connect with everyone through the camera lens.

“I wanted to have the essence of panto with the sparkly sets, fun costumes, the songs and dances, the comedy routines and jokes, and also highlight the shared experience of lockdown bringing in the masks, the two-metre distancing, Zoom calls and furloughing.”

“Of course, we will miss the audience, but we are treating it more like a comedy movie and using the music to really ramp things up between scenes.”

Actor Iain Lauchlan as a pantomime dame wearing a blue and rainbow patterned dress with 'NHS' written on it

Iain Lauchlan as Dame Trott - Credit: Chloe Ely Photography

The show also sees Iain reunite with regular on-stage comedy partner Craig Hollingsworth and a cast of other accomplished stage performers. 

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That key factor of having a great team to work with has been part of Iain’s career since he first shot to fame as part of the much-loved BBC children’s TV show Play School alongside such iconic fellow presenters like Derek Griffiths and Johnny Ball.

He recalled: “I think it was the hardest thing I ever did. You recorded five programmes at a time. You would meet on the Thursday, go through everything, and learn 12 to 15 songs.

“You would rehearse on the Friday and then record everything the following Monday to Wednesday. You had around 40 minutes to record a half hour programme, so just 10 minutes to redo anything that went drastically wrong. It was hard work but a brilliant training ground.”

However, it was the creation of The Tweenies that changed Iain's life.

His writing partner Will Brenton and he came up with the story of the pre-school characters who became a global hit. “We were asked to pitch for a new programme to take over from the Teletubbies. We were put into the mix for it and did not think we would stand a chance as we were up against so many big companies, but we got through, developed it and were asked initially to make 70 programmes,” Iain said.

The adventures of Bella, Milo, Fizz, Jake, Doodles and Izzles ended up becoming a massive hit.

“It launched at Christmas 1999 and just took off. It was one of the biggest exports the BBC ever had. It ran for more than 10 years and we made 390 programmes in the end. It was such a big chunk of my life.”

As well as Jack and the Beanstalk in Norfolk and his one-man Santa show taking to the stage in Coventry depending on COVID-19 restrictions, he continues to entertain a younger audience through his Cheeky Chimps TV online channel.

“I’ve got a project in the studio teaching pre-school children to play the piano and I am also working on a project called Mood Bears which will help with children’s mental health.”

* Jack and the Beanstalk is at the Norfolk Showground on Saturday 19-Sunday 20 December at 12pm and 3pm, and Monday 21-Tuesday 22 December at 2pm and 5pm. Find out more and book here.