Panto panic: Theatre boss rescues panto by playing leading lady

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Theatre Clwyd

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Harvey (centre) seemed to take it in her stride

When the leading actress in Theatr Clwyd’s pantomime twisted her knee five minutes into Wednesday’s performance, someone had to jump in quickly.

Step forward the Welsh theatre’s artistic director, Tamara Harvey.

Emmy Stonelake was starring as Alice in Dick Whittington but was unable to continue after her injury.

Harvey took the call as she was coaxing her toddler to eat broccoli – which most parents would agree is a more daunting task.

“It’s something that every artistic director is prepared to do but I never expected I’d actually have to do it!” she said.

‘Extra level of hilarity’

The theatre paid tribute to its new star, saying she “saved the day by stepping onto the stage to become Alice in our rock ‘n’ panto”, adding: “We raise a glass and shout a massive thank you to you Tamara!”

Interestingly, her production of Home, I’m Darling at the National Theatre saw its artistic director, Rufus Norris, step into the breach when an actor became ill last year.

Harvey added: “We’re lucky to have an incredibly talented team at Clwyd, both onstage and behind the scenes – from our brilliant Dame, Phylip Harries, who ribbed me mercilessly and brought an extra level of hilarity to the show, right through to our team of dressers who dug out emergency costumes at two minutes’ notice – it was a great team effort.”

Harries said: “There’s a bit of added pressure when the artistic director takes to the stage, particularly playing my son’s love interest, but Tamara acquitted herself admirably and got a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the show.”

‘Juggling family and work’

Harvey spoke last year about the need for a “culture change” in the theatre world to improve conditions for working parents.

She told the BBC her own return to work after having her second child had made her more aware of the difficulties for parents in the performing arts.

She said she had “a tonne of support,” but juggling family and work commitments had been “incredibly tough”.

Dick Whittington runs until Saturday 19 January at Theatr Clwyd in Mold.

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