Stratford East is back with another twisted classic, as their 2022 pantomime takes the Cinderella we all know and love, and transforms the story into something new to remember. With fresh, original music, and heaps of laughs to be had, it promises to be the Christmas tonic we all need this year.
Starring in the show, Wesley Bozonga has kindly answered a few questions about the production and panto, so read on to find out more.
What can you tell us about how this version is a unique take on the traditional tale, particularly being set in ancient Egypt?
I think the fact it’s set in Egypt (East-gypt) is a massive curve ball. I’ll admit I didn’t know what to expect but reading the script everything made so much sense! I can tell you that we’ll get you up on your feet and you’ll love every song sang from this dazzling cast!
Who do you play, and which elements of your character are your favourite?
I play a character called Marc Anthony who is the prince of the Roman army. I think the thing I like most about him is the fact that he truly wants to make a difference, not just in his life but in the world. In a deeper sense it comes back to real life. You can make any change as long as you have the determination and belief in yourself, and me as a foster kid with a dream of becoming an actor, I believe it too! You just can’t let anything stop you! Also the tracksuit is pretty cool.
How has the rehearsal process been, and what was your initial reaction to hearing the original tracks featuring in the show?
The rehearsal process has been super intense but with such a fun and trustworthy cast, it’s been such a pleasure. Everyone cares so much which is great. I LOVE music, so hearing the songs and knowing that each one was fresh and tailored around our voices was incredibly cool. I was dancing to every single song and nearly knew most of the words!
What risk is there in presenting such a classic story but with a huge twist?
There is always the fear that people will prefer the classic version of it but that’s been done so many times- and where’s the fun in that? Naturally, we cannot please every single person that comes to see this show, or in general, so the only thing we can do as a team is go out there and give it our best!
What's the best thing about being part of a panto, and how does it differ from regular theatre productions?
The best thing about being in a panto is playing with the audience: you can throw lines out to them and can usually receive a different reaction or random line thrown right back at you! You also get to try out such a different style of acting, or at least a style that I’m not used to, but it’s been so cool exploring the different moments where I am more cartoonish/animated and dramatic, and then finding moments where I am more centred. Every character is different on the scale of how dramatic they are, but you get a lovely range from each of us.
Why do you think the exaggerated characters and comedic formula has worked consistently for so long?
I think it’s worked for so long because most pantos happen at the end of the year and after all the craziness people experience throughout the year, panto is a place people can go to let loose and have a laugh! You don’t have to take it too seriously but you can escape from your everyday life for about 2 hours, and sometimes an escape is all we need. Stratford have affordable tickets too which makes it accessible for people who may not be able to pay for the standard prices. It’s something that people can look forward too and not feel excluded from!
What importance do you feel pantomimes have within the arts industry?
I think they have such importance as they can introduce lots of kids to theatre and for many, it is a first theatre experience that they will hold for a lifetime. It’s also tradition! The year wouldn’t end if we didn’t have panto. Ask Ian McKellen!
Big thanks to Wesley for sharing about his show, and giving his thoughts on panto too- wishing you all the best for the rest of the run, and have a wonderful Christmas season!
Get your tickets here:
Additional thanks to Freya Cowdry for coordinating this interview.