Thursday, 17 November 2022 09:44

A Real Cinderella Story

A Real Cinderella Story

Having made her professional debut as an understudy in panto last year at Lighthouse, to say Charlotte Wood was thrilled to be offered the chance to come back this year – and in the title role – is something of an understatement.

“Are you kidding? When they called me to offer me the part of Cinderella, I cried immediately on the phone,” she confesses. “I wasn’t expecting that, especially when as an understudy you get to have a go at a part – I think I did them all once in rehearsal – and that was it.

“So, I had to process it. I thought they obviously want me for a reason so the best I can do is turn up, give it a good go and have fun. Obviously, it was me they liked so I’ll bring something of me to Cinderella – a bit of Charlotte Wood – and see what Cinders comes out like.”

Although last year’s panto was her first paid acting job, she has a wealth of experience built up in more than 15 years working on shows at York Theatre Royal, her hometown venue, including In Fog and Falling Snow, The Crucible, Dick Whittington and his Meerkat and The Railway Children. As well as teaching and working as a party princess, she also toured a one-woman show The Castaways to schools and theatres in the north of England.

Variety is the spice, they say...

“Well, yes, but this last year has been a whirlwind. Chris Jarvis has been amazing. He really took me under his wing because he knows it’s hard to get going.

“All my experience comes from being in a professional environment as a child and it’s difficult when you come in as someone who hasn’t been to drama school or anything like that. I did pantos as a child, then I went into summer shows, and the Theatre Royal started bringing me in to be in professional productions when they needed kids. That’s how I learned. I tried to get into drama school for years and it just never happened.”

Her admiration for Chris Jarvis, who’s writing and directing Cinderella as well as appearing as Buttons, is fully reciprocated.

“Charlotte is absolutely amazing,” says the CBeebies star. “She was our saving angel last year – as well as appearing in the show in her own role she was understudy for everyone else. That meant she had to know everyone’s part and be ready to go on at a moment’s notice, so I couldn’t be happier that she’s coming back – from understudy to title role in just 12 months. Brilliant!”

Chris also enlisted Charlotte when he hosted the Bourne Free Family Fun Day for Bournemouth Pride this summer.

“Oh, I sang all afternoon," she recalls. "It was the first time I’d sung outside of the York bubble where people know me, so it felt a bit daunting, but everyone was so lovely, there was so much love there and positivity.”

All of which Charlotte insists will feed into her portrayal of Cinderella.

“Everyone loves Cinderella as she is ultimate princess and even my mum when I told her I was cast she was: ‘Oh my goodness, I cry at the transformation scene every year, what am I going to do when it’s you?!’

“So, there’s a bit of pressure, but we want Cinderella to be strong and sassy as well – she falls in love with a prince because we all deserve someone to love us for who we are, but she doesn’t need a prince to make her a wonderful person.

“Panto is evolving, it’s moving with the times, and it’s up to us to make sure the princesses do the same and give the little girls in the audience a proper role model to look up to – it’s what theatre is for, to shape minds.”

But what of her co-star Tyger Drew-Honey, how’s he shaping up as Prince Charming?

“He's really sweet, really lovely, we’re going to have a lot of fun, he’s really chill. Me and my family really loved Outnumbered, it was our favourite, so when they said that’s who they’d cast I had to hang on to myself a bit! Tyger’s really sound though, we get along.”

And, like Tyger whose family are coming over from Spain to see him in Cinderella, Charlotte’s loved ones are also coming to Poole to see her.

“Last year I had been expecting to spend Christmas at home in York, but then I got the call to be in Poole with about three weeks’ notice and, bless them, they all came down to see me – and this year they’re all coming back!” she laughs.

“And so are all my friends, they’ve got a minibus! But I think they’re going to spread it out a bit, so that half of York doesn’t all descend on Poole at the same time. It’s lovely to be back in Poole and it’ll be amazing to see everyone – they’re looking forward to it as much as me.”




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