THE cast of a South Shields panto will be joined on stage by some very special guests.
Swedish actors Ola Karlberg and Mia Wallin are set to take on roles in this year’s festive offering, Dick Whittington, at the Customs House.
This time last year, the pair had never even heard of pantomime – and now they’re not only set to star in the show at the Mill Dam venue, but they’re also taking the tradition back to their homeland.
Ola, 55, who will play Captain Carl Gustav von Wrangle, said: “We can’t wait to get started, we’re so excited to be part of the Customs House pantomime.”
Mia, 25, who is playing Mia the Cat, added: “Panto is totally new to us but we’re ready to embrace it and we’re looking forward to learning something new.”
The duo became involved after a link was forged between Gothenburg and the Customs House on a visit in January.
Having heard there was no family theatre in Sweden, Customs House executive director, Ray Spencer, was keen to introduce the Swedes to panto.
He was joined by the cast and crew of last year’s Aladdin to present a workshop and produce a short performance with a group of Swedish actors.
Ray said: “I was astonished to find out that in Sweden, there is theatre aimed at either adults or children and they don’t have family theatre and had never heard of panto.
“Coming from a town where panto has always been part of the festive season, I found this fascinating and was thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to Gothenburg and introduce this artform to them.
“What was thrilling was seeing how quickly the audience got it, and in turn the reaction of the actors to the audience participation – they wanted to know afterwards when we had rehearsed the audience.”
The year’s panto has been specially adapted to fit in a trip to Sweden.
In the original version of Dick Whittington, the ship sinks and panto characters are washed up on the shores of Morocco, but in this version, they’ll find themselves in Gothenburg. While this will be Ola and Mia’s first experience of panto, it will be a sad farewell to Dame Dotty.
Bob Stott, who has played the character for the last 37 years, said: “While hanging up my brassiere and bloomers will be a sad occasion, I’m delighted to be taking part in this year’s pantomime and handing over the tradition, not only to Ola and Mia, but hopefully to a whole nation of people – that will be a wonderful legacy.”
Dick Whittington runs at the Customs House from November 29 to January 6.
Tickets start at £8. To book, go to www.customshouse.co.uk or call the box office on 454 1234.