Does Huddersfield-born actress Ann Micklethwaite enjoy being in panto?
Oh, yes she does!
Which is just as well because the 42-year-old from Clayton West is about to start rehearsals for a starring role in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax.
It will be Ann’s fourth panto at the theatre, but the first for a couple of years. She’s had time away to raise her second daughter, Iris, who is almost two-years-old.
This year she will be playing The Fairy in a three week run from Saturday, December 13, until Sunday, January 4, 2015.
“I was asked to be in panto the year I was pregnant with Iris,” she says, “but I couldn’t possibly have done it - and as it turns out she was born on January 1!”
Pantomimes offer seasonal stability to actors and actresses who inhabit a precarious world where, as Ann explains, “it doesn’t matter what your last job was.”
“It is a very fickle industry,” she adds. “You don’t work your way up the ladder unless you have a made a name for yourself in TV.”
Ann has always seen herself as a theatre actress and before having children - and for a while in between - she had both touring and West End roles in productions such as Carrie’s War (with Prunella Scales), Gertrude’s Secret (also with Prunella) and Little Women. She has appeared in training and corporate films and since having children - her eldest daughter Imogen is eight-years-old - she has put her stage career on the back burner and found work with companies who supply role playing actors for medical training purposes.
A former pupil of Mirfield High School, Ann showed early signs of promise and at the age of 10 joined Dewsbury Arts Group. “I got bitten by the bug from a young age,” she explained. “I went to Dewsbury College to do A level theatre studies and went to the Mountview Theatre School in London. In those days you could still get grants to go to drama school.”
It was during her drama training that she met her husband-to-be, John Danbury, the international and corporate magician, who was on a musical theatre course. For more than a decade they lived and worked in London but Ann wanted to return to her roots and says she persuaded John to move North: “I got him to Yorkshire because I wanted to bring my children up here. I love the area and the scenery and it’s a great place to bring children up.”
Returning to Huddersfield meant that Ann was also closer to her parents, Roy and Freda Micklethwaite, who live in Clayton West. Having family around is important to a couple whose work is often unpredictable. John frequently travels around the world - the week before last he was in Geneva - and Ann anticipates they will be doing quite a bit of juggling of work and parenting during the panto season.
Their daughters are certainly having an interesting upbringing. “When Imogen was younger her dad used to do (magic at) her parties and she’s seen me in Carrie’s War and in pantos,” said Ann.
No doubt Imogen is looking forward to seeing her mum in Jack and the Beanstalk.
Rehearsals begin on December 1, which means that the company has just two weeks of hard work to pull the production together. As Ann says: “Theatre work is demanding and quite a lot of hassle so you need to be enjoying it to do it. I’m looking forward to being on stage again. I think I’m getting itchy feet a bit and need to do some theatre.”
Ticket details are available from the Victoria Theatre box office on 01422 351158 or www.victoriatheatre.co.uk