This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019

From choosing actors to raising the curtain - Panto preparations are a year-long affair

The director of the Liberty Panto explains what it takes to get a panto up and running.

The cast of the Liberty Panto's Cinderella
The cast of the Liberty Panto's Cinderella
Image: Tom Honan via Julien Behal Photography

FROM PICKING THE actors to the raising of the curtain – preparing for a pantomime doesn’t happen overnight, it’s almost a year-long journey. 

And for the production team behind Liberty Panto, the preparations are getting bigger and bigger every year. This year, it’s running Cinderella. 

For almost a decade, Tempus Productions had been running a local pantomime in Clontarf. However, last year the team made a big leap – it moved into Liberty Hall in Dublin city centre. 

And with the move has come more pressure to deliver and pull out all the stops, according to the panto’s director Michael Courtney. 

“It’s definitely a different calibre show this year to last. Last year, we weren’t very familiar with the theatre and it was a little bit daunting to us,” Courtney told 

“This year, people are a little bit more relaxed because they’ve become comfortable with the surroundings in there, but definitely, the game is on because we want to put our foot in the city and say we’re here and we’re here to stay,” he said. 

We want to create a brand with Liberty Panto that people will recognise when they hear it and recognise it as being a good show for families.

 Months of planning

So, be it a community panto or a Dublin city centre panto, months of planning goes into choosing actors, designing the sets, picking out costumes and marketing the show. 

For Tempus Productions, preparations began this year as early as April, when the production meetings kicked off. 

Following that, costume and set designing began at the beginning of the summer.

When it comes to the cast – the team has a core group of actors, local children and adults, who have been with them long-term. 

Although the team of actors was, and still is, built up of local talents, for the most part, this year sees John Lovett of The Tudors and Eric Lalor of Fair City join the cast.

“That kind of breaks the divide for it this year, from being a complete community group to not quite professional group,” Courtney said.

 And come September, preparations are in full swing. 

“Once September comes in, the summer is officially over. It’s not quite Christmas, it hasn’t hit Halloween, but people want to know what’s on the Panto horizon at that stage and you have to be ready to plaster them with something,” Courtney said. 

For Liberty Panto, the first show kicked off on 19 December and runs until 6 January. 

Speaking of the opening nights of pantos, Courtney said it can be “nerve wrecking”. 

However, this year the team had two dress rehearsals and two preview shows. 

“It does help take the pressure off when it comes to opening night,” he said. 

Setting up the perfect panto 

And as it takes almost a year to get a panto from the initial meetings to opening night, Courtney took a moment to reflect on what it takes to make sure the end result is enjoyable for all. 

In his eyes, it’s ensuring the show is suitable not just for children, but for adults too. 

“The first thing adults want is something to entertain the children over Christmas. If they’re going to sit there for two and a half hours while the kids are happy, they need to get something out of it themselves,” Courtney said. 

So, the script definitely has to have that little bit of double entendre that goes way over the kids’ heads, but there’s still nothing too rude or too blue. 

“We make sure from a kid’s perspective that it hits all the fairytale stuff – it’s got the love, it’s got the hate, it’s got the goodies and baddies. It brings the kids right to the end of the seat and then just drops them in it.” 

The Liberty Panto’s Cinderella is running from 2 to 6 January, with matinees starting at 2.30pm and evening shows at 7.30pm. More information can be found here.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel