Kent's Phil Gallagher talks Cbeebies and Marlowe Theatre pantomimes with Our Kent Family

by Lauren Abbott

As we start snowballing towards Christmas there are two things which the children start to get very excited about.

The first is the arrival of the somewhat wayward elves on the shelf who, if they're lucky, rock up on December 1 in a puff of red and green glitter dragging with them chocolate advent calendars. The countdown to their imminent stay starts around Bonfire Night and it is - declares Oscar aged 7 - one of the most exciting times of the year as chocolate before breakfast suddenly becomes allowed for 24 wonderful days.

And the second, is the likelihood of an outing to a Marlowe Theatre pantomime.

This year's Marlowe Theatre pantomime cast
This year's Marlowe Theatre pantomime cast

We've been seeing pantomimes at the Marlowe for years - partly because it's one of our nearest theatres and Canterbury itself always offers the additional option of a wonderfully festive family day out - and secondly because well, they're just brilliant.

And one person who agrees with my tribe of under 11s is a man who is returning once again to The Marlowe this year, playing Buttons in Evolution Pantomime's production of Cinderella.

Phil Gallagher in his role as Buttons
Phil Gallagher in his role as Buttons

Phil Gallagher - perhaps better known as Cbeebies' Mister Maker - says there is indeed something very special about the Canterbury show.

"The absolute best thing about a Marlowe pantomime is that all ages can really enjoy it" he explained. "Lloyd Hollet (starring alongside dame Ben Roddy as the ugly sisters) brought his baby daughter - small children love it.

"And Mr Hendy - the boss - brought his mum and she's nearly 90 and she really enjoyed it!"

Pantomime is most definitely in the blood for the Medway-born entertainer.

Revealing, as he chatted to Phoebe (10), Amber (eight), Oscar (seven) and Liv (five) about the things he most enjoyed as a small boy in Kent, that he once starred in Chatham's pantomime aged seven as a chicken who had to come on stage and try and lay a giant golden egg.

"It was a very difficult part" he joked with a sly wink at the kids, which sent them into fits of giggles as they all teetered on the edge of the toilet humour children of their age find so wickedly funny.

But Cinderella is not the only pantomime where you'll spot Phil Gallagher this Christmas.

He's also starring in the Cbeebies Christmas Show Thumbelina, which is also coming to Kent cinemas in December.

But when the kids quizzed him, over gingerbread men and Christmas crackers, as to which is the most fun - a Cbeebies pantomime or a long run at the Marlowe - being on stage in front of Kent audiences won hands down.

"It's a special time to be at home" he explained. "All my friends come along and my mum and dad come and they all come to see the show."

He's also been visited by other familiar faces including Cbeebies fellow presenter and Swashbucklers pirate Gemma Hunt, who too lives in Kent and starred in Peter Pan at The Marlowe last year.

Gemma Hunt when she played Tiger Lilly in 2017
Gemma Hunt when she played Tiger Lilly in 2017

She brought with her, he said, some homemade fudge which saw her rocket to the top of his list when Oscar asked him which Cbeebies characters or presenters he'd most like to be stranded on a desert island with.

"Gem, but really only if she brings the fudge" he chuckled.

"And Cook from Swashbucklers because he's a really good swimmer, Justin Fletcher and maybe Andy because he's very tall and could look out for boats?"

They say you should never meet your heroes. And while the hero of this pantomime story is most likely to be Prince Charming (played by EastEnders Harry Reid), judging by the children's reactions I think it'll be Mister Maker, with his quick-wit, child-friendly humour and exceptional friendliness who is set to leave the biggest impression on my tribe after we've seen the show in a few weeks time.

And you already know we're counting down to that.

(That and the chocolate for breakfast).

Elf on the shelf, advent calendars and a panto trip signal the start of Christmas for bloggers Our Kent Family
Elf on the shelf, advent calendars and a panto trip signal the start of Christmas for bloggers Our Kent Family

*Cinderella at The Marlowe Theatre also starring Sally Lindsay runs in Canterbury until Sunday, January 6. For ticket information and more details click here.

For our guide to all the pantos in Kent this Christmas see our comprehensive guide to performances in the county by clicking here.

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