Martin Lynch and Joe Rea panto finishes this week at Waterfront

‘Genie-us’ role is full of fun for Nelson

By Scott Jamison

One of the most famous of all Christmas pantos is currently playing in South Belfast, running until this weekend and starring a local actress in a ‘genie-us’ role.

Christina Nelson plays the dual roles of the genie and the CD seller in the production of Aladdin, which plays at the Waterfront Hall until Saturday (January 7).

Produced by noted playwright Martin Lynch and South Belfast actor Joe Rea, Aladdin tells the well-known story of the street urchin who meets a princess, getting mixed up with a wish-granting genie along the way.

Although originally just in the role of the CD seller, Rosetta woman Christina’s workload increased when a colleague took a turn for the worse.

“Richard Orr played the genie at first but took kidney stones. It was so bad for him that he just stopped and had to literally walk off-stage during one performance.

“Nobody knew what was happening. I was there and knew someone had to be performing so I just grabbed the wig and ran on. It was hard at first because I didn’t know his script or anything.

“Richard came back and saw what I had done with the character and said it was more my role, so I kept playing the genie and I am having so much fun.”

Christine admits she is having a lot of fun with the genie role.

“As a character she has stopped off in every country in the world and has picked up an accent everywhere she has gone so I get to have a lot of fun with that.

“The costume is absolutely amazing – it is all bright, bold colours, so I look like a disco ball on stage. The character and the music is brilliant, so I’m having a great time.”

She says one of the things attracting her to the panto this year was its first-time director – one Dan Gordon, who is usually more used to being on stage as the panto dame each year.

“Dan is brilliant, he’s not too worried about us sometimes veering from the script if we want to throw an extra few lines in there. Dan comes from this world so he knows what it’s like to be a performer.

“He has been a joy to work with and really supportive of all the actors. We all love that nothing is purely set in stone – as long as you give your cues for lights and sound, we can be a bit more free with things.

Having ran from the end of November, Aladdin has received plenty of feedback already and it’s all positive according to Christina.

“The kids who have been to see us draw us pictures and send them in, which is lovely. We put lots of wee local touches into the panto that people recognise and I think that’s why they get into it so much.

“We laugh at ourselves in it, which is the best thing about people from Belfast, and we’ve had the reactions to that. The crowd shouts along from the moment we walk on-stage and they end up working as hard as we do.

“It’s a really interactive panto – the space in the Waterfront allows it to be much more personable and we go out into the audience at the end and thank them for coming. They can get photographs and that personal touch really adds to things.”

Having a background in circus performing and having devised several special ‘magic medicine’ tours for special schools and respite care units, Christina admits panto is a natural progression for her.

“It’s totally different from any other form of theatre and it is an art-form. There is a snobbishness among some actors towards it but if they studied pantomime as an art that has gone back for centuries they would benefit from it because it stands you in good stead no matter what area of performing it goes into.

“You get to know your audience and that’s what really makes a good actor – being able to play to your audience and showing them truth and reality. That’s what panto stems from.

“As an art-form I love it and always have.”

Christina says she hopes the rest of the panto run is as successful as it has been so far.

“I just hope we keep getting great audiences. They have supported us so far and it’s more fun for them when it’s a full house. We’re running until January 7, so it’s not long enough for it to become tired.

“We will keep enjoying it and I hope the audiences do too.”

Aladdin is at the Waterfront until Saturday. Tickets are available from the Waterfront and Ulster Hall box offices, by calling 90 33 44 55 or at www.waterfront.co.uk.

 

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