A NORTHWICH panto tar has spoken about a decade entertaining the town as the curtain gets set to come up for this year's production.

Ryan Greaves, who alongside side producer Anton Benson, has been putting pantomime's together for the last ten years, said he can't wait to get back to the Memorial Court next month.

"Last year was hard for everyone, but at least we were still able to get together and film a panto for people to watch from home," he said.

"But it will amazing to be back performing in front of an audience again."

Winsford Guardian: The cast of this year's production of Sleeping Beauty outside Northwich Memorial Court

The cast of Sleeping Beauty outside the Memorial Hall

For life long actor Ryan, the unique world of pantomime was something he fell into, having never even seen one before he made his first appearance.

"I'm actually a classically trained actor and I just auditioned for a part in panto years ago," Ryan explained.

"I'd never actually seen a panto before that.

"It wasn't a big thing for me growing up.

"I come from a very working class background in Doncaster and theatre wasn't really a thing.

"So I was actually in a panto before I'd ever seen one."

His first Northwich panto took place at the Grange Theatre in Hartford, but after three successful shows there, the production moved to the newly built Memorial Court.

This year's story is the classic Sleeping Beauty, the script for which was written pre-pandemic, before plans for it to be performed last Christmas were put on hold.

"Last year we did a production called 'Once Upon a Pantomime' instead," he added.

"We filmed it all in just one day in Rhyl and people were able to pay to watch it online whenever they wanted.

"It was a format that seemed to go down well so we repeated it for our Easter panto too.

"It's been a long time coming for us to do Sleeping Beauty again.

"We've been sitting on it for ages, keeping our fingers crossed that it was actually going to happen."

Winsford Guardian: The cast of this year's production of Sleeping Beauty

Tickets are on sale for this year's panto

Ryan has pretty much seen and done it all in his decade long service to the festive art form and when pushed to pick a favourite, says there is one that generally comes out on top.

"The most magical one and the one that gets the biggest reaction from the kids is Cinderella," he said.

"They invest so much into that character and I guess recognise the fact she is so bullied by her family.

"They end up really rooting for her and when she gets her dress and the carriage at the end of Act one, it's such a high and the kids are buzzing seeing her transformed into a princess."

It wouldn't be panto without a celebrity appearance and having worked with many over the years, Ryan has fond memories of Kerry Katona, who he said completely flipped his pre-conceived perception of her.

He said: "Kerry pulls a lot of headlines, and sometimes not always for the right reasons.

"But she's fantastic and that's why we've had her back for so many shows.

"When I first found out I was going to be working with her, I thought 'oh dear'.

"I'd got all those tabloid images in my head, but she arrived on day one and knew all her lines perfectly.

"She's got such a great presence on stage and the audience just love her.

"She manages to win everybody around because she's got a great comic personality and she's not afraid of sending herself up.

"You don't want celebrities who take themselves too seriously and she's definitely one of the best."

Winsford Guardian: Kerry Katona is one of Ryan's most popular celebrities to have worked with

Kerry Katona is one of Ryan's most popular celebrities to have worked with

With special effects now taking centre stage too, this year's is no different, with an amazing dragon making an appearance this year - voiced by a real-life dragon in the shape of Sara Davies, fresh from her recent run on Strictly Come Dancing.

For Ryan, it's a case of getting the right balance between scary and fun just right.

"Having two kids of my own has really helped me in that regard," he added.

"They've been watching my shows since they were six months old.

"They're not only my biggest critics but my biggest fans as well and so far I haven't got to the point of being an embarrassing dad yet!"

Sleeping Beauty, which features Coronation Street star Paula Lane and Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood, is on at Northwich Memorial Court from December 6 until Friday, 31.

For tickets and further information go to brioentertainment.org/event/sleeping-beauty.