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An Interview With A Dame


An Interview With A Dame

Sunderland Empire's Miss Rory, who is appearing as Widow Twankey, talks about Panto


Sunderland Empire Theatre

Until Monday 2 January 2023


Miss Rory reveals all about her double act with Tom Whalley, working with Gary Lucy and the magic of panto in Sunderland. 

It’s Panto season once again, how are you feeling about being back at the Sunderland Empire? 

It’s my favourite time of year, I absolutely love it! 

This time round you’re playing Widow Twankey. Tell us about your fabulous character this year.  

She’s great. She’s a bit like a sort of Dot Cotton. You know, she works in the launderette, she’s got a bit of a troublesome son but unlike Dot Cotton she ends up quite wealthy. So she’s got this big sort of transition as the show goes on and I can see her being a bit of an aspirant. She feels like she deserves more than her lot. She's a bit downtrodden then she gets it.  


Gary Lucy has joined the cast this year. Are you looking forward to working with him?  

Yes, I mean, I was and am a huge fan of Footballers' Wives, that is my kind of television, so it’s great to be working with Gary. When we met, we got on very well and Gary said he thinks it’s probably best that him and I stay apart during the show, or we’ll end up in too much trouble. So that’s always a good sign! 


You and Tom Whalley have great chemistry on stage. Why do you think that is?  

Tom and I have been friends for about 10 years now and we’ve worked on various bits and bobs together. Tom had written a musical, I think as part of his degree, it was called Asco, and it was a musical set in a supermarket.

Typically Tom, typically zany and they had the premiere night at Boulevard, and he asked me to host it. I think that’s the first time I met Tom and since then we’ve always kept in touch and been friends and I think it’s that friendship that works so well on stage. I will often look at Tom and he’s got that look of fear in his eyes on stage and it’s because he can see a glint in my eye that means that there’s going to be trouble. So yeah, I love working with Tom, he’s so gracious. He’s so incredibly talented but he doesn’t shout about it which makes him even better. I just love the bones of him.  


What is it about Panto that’s so special and brings people back year after year?  

It’s a tradition, isn’t it? And it’s one of the few traditions I think that we’ve still got and one of the few chances that a whole family can come out together. You know, at the Empire, you have people in now who are maybe around my age that bring their kids and they’re coming in with their parents who are now grandparents and long may it go on and on and on. It’s like a treadmill of generations that come through and it’s really special to be part of people’s Christmas like that. We’re very lucky.  


The Panto had great reviews last year, does that add more pressure or is it welcomed? 

I mean the reviews for last year were amazing. The reviews for the year before, before the pandemic, were amazing and hopefully that’s why they keep asking up back and back and back to make it even more amazing. So yeah, we’ve got big shoes to fill every year because we set the bar consistently high but that’s what drives you to do better and better every year.  


You get to wear some fantastic outfits can you reveal anything in regards to your sparkling looks this year?  

They’re great this year. Widow Twankey goes from being quite dowdy to quite glam, which was interesting because usually as a dame, I suppose unless you’re playing the Queen in Sleeping Beauty or something, you don’t really go too glam, but the way I like to think about Twankey is she got all this money but she doesn’t quite know how to spend it. So, she’s a bit tack as well which is great and the finale of course, how am I going to beat last year’s finale with 75,000 feathers? Well, watch this space!  


Why should people book to see Aladdin at Sunderland Empire this Christmas?  

Because it’s the canniest Panto in the North East!


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