Jamie's back for Bognor panto

Last seen in Bognor Regis as Abanazar in Aladdin, Jamie Bannerman is back in the town this Christmas as The Lion, his first goodie part for a while.

Jamie Bannerman as Lion. Credit youreventphotography.uk
Jamie Bannerman as Lion. Credit youreventphotography.uk

The Wizard of Oz is in the Alexandra Theatre from Wednesday, December 11-Saturday, January 4.

In all, it will be his fourth Bognor panto, a reflection of the fact that in Jamie’s view, Bognor really is one of the very best pantomime venues around.

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It’s the friendliness that makes all the difference, as far as Jamie is concerned.

“It has got that proper community spirit.

“It has got that fantastic family feel to it, and that is something that not all theatres have.

“Some theatres, you can perform there and you don’t even get to see the theatre manager.

“You just don’t see them at all! And you just think ‘Where is everyone?’”

That’s absolutely not the case at the Regis Centre where you are instantly wrapped up in the family feel of the whole place.

“And I think that makes such a big difference to everything and to the performance. It just gives you a positive energy, especially in panto. You have got that happy, family feeling right from the start and exactly the right vibe going on. You have got all the volunteers there, and everyone is smiling and welcoming you. You will always have a great time.”

Bognor this year is Jamie’s 19th successive pantomime: “It’s just crazy. I have got to that stage where someone will come up to me and say ‘Do you remember me?’ and I will say no, and it will turn out that they were a child dancer in a panto I did years ago and now they are an 18-year-old!”

Adding to the fun is the fact that The Wizard of Oz is one of his favourite pantomimes, Jamie says: “It is more of a Christmas show in a way than a pantomime, but we have got lots of panto elements to it. And it is one of those stories that everyone wants to see.

“I have played a lot of baddies over the years. I was Hook in Bognor and Abanazar here, and it is great to be a goodie again. I think it is about five years since I last played a goodie in panto.

“To be the Lion in The Wizard of Oz, I think you have got to be very scared.

“That’s the main thing. And then you have got to find your courage. And also there are some really nice comedy elements that you can play with as well.

“And I have got to work on my Brooklyn accent. I am giving him a Brooklyn accent as I see him as a bit of a southpaw, a bit of a boxer…”

It has got to the stage where Jamie couldn’t imagine a Christmas without panto.

“Panto is what I am used to now.

“It is what I have done for 19 years. I haven’t known anything different for so long. It just wouldn’t feel right if I wasn’t doing panto. I would feel naked if I wasn’t doing panto!

“But also it is that great British tradition that I love, that family thing of getting everyone together and having a good laugh and a great time together. I just love doing it.”

It’s one of the great constants in our lives.

“Panto doesn’t change at all. It is still about everyone getting involved… and involving all the family… and getting away from the outside world, which is maybe what we really need right at the moment!”

Tickets for The Wizard of Oz at Bognor’s Alexandra Theatre are available on alexandratheatre.co.uk and 01243 861010.