The creative team behind ten years of panto at the Stag
The annual pantomime in Sevenoaks has helped launch and develop the careers of many performers starting out in the industry, and the Stag’s star dressing room has been occupied by a long list of artists from the world of tv and music over the years. Many actors, singers, dancers, stage managers, and musicians have become part of the theatre’s history since pantomime returned to the town, but four members of the creative team have stayed the same, and are responsible for the success of the Stag’s successful ‘panto comeback’ that now see’s more than 20,000 people flock to the town for their festive treat each Christmas. Writer and Director Jamie Alexander Wilson, Music Supervisor Sam Hall, Choreographer Kerry Turner and Media Producer Simon Cossons, are about to embark on their tenth panto production as a creative team.
In 2009, Sam Hall was the youngest professional panto drummer in the industry. At just 15 years old, he needed a licence from the local council to take a professional job on the show. Sam is now the Music Supervisor for Sevenoaks Panto, and is responsible for creating the fantastic musical numbers in each pantomime, using his talents and tricks to make a five piece band sound like a full orchestra. The Stag’s panto has a reputation for creating productions of a West End standard, and no wonder, as Sam spent two years as the children’s Musical Director on the hit musical School Of Rock, and is now Music Manager for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. Over the last few months, as well as producing all the music for Dick Whittington, Sam has been arranging the orchestral score of the USA tour of Cats, and developing a new autobiographical musical, Unmasked, for Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Kerry Turner has been choreographer of choice for the producers of Sevenoaks Panto for well over ten years. She started off as a performer, and made her professional pantomime debut at the same venue as the Stag’s panto director, Jamie, working for the same producer, and just one year apart. She played the Wicked Queen in Snow White, at the Cresset Theatre Peterborough in 1999, and then went on to work as an assistant producer and director for the company, as well as running her own production company. Kerry’s passion has alway been dance, and she opened her own dance school in Maidstone. Kerry has choreographed each of the nine previous pantomimes at the Stag Theatre, and also now runs a dance school in Sevenoaks, based at Knole Academy. Kerry and Jamie began working together in 2007, creating pantomimes the toured village halls and primary schools for two years, all in an effort to find the permanent pantomime home that would eventually become the Stag Theatre.
Simon Cossons is the Media Producer, and his job has probably changed the most in the last ten years. In the early days, Simon was responsible for the design of the show - everything from creating posters and advertising, to building and painting props and set. As technology has moved on, Simon moved into animation and projection, with various elements of the yearly panto slowly becoming digitised. Sevenoaks Panto has always tried to keep up with the latest tech, and this year, the Stag will be the first pantomime in the country to have a fully digital set, with magical movie style animations all created by Simon. During the year, Simon also runs the Stag Youth Theatre, teaching young people in weekly theatre workshops, running film courses during school holidays, and staging plays and productions at the theatre. In 2019, the Stag Youth Theatre will be working with the National Theatre on a new play.
In late 2008, Jamie Alexander Wilson wrote to Linda Larter of Sevenoaks Town Council, having heard the news that the council were trying to reopen the then closed Stag Theatre. He was invited to a meeting in early 2009, where the potential to bring panto back to the Stag was discussed, and soon after that, Jamie began work on making that plan a reality. Each January, Jamie goes away to imaging a brand new pantomime in his head, and then spends the following months trying to get other people to do the hard work of turning it into a living production. Jamie writes the scripts, casts the performers, and directs the show - so if you don’t enjoy this year’s Dick Whittington, it’s probably his fault. Jamie quickly fell in love with the town, and made Sevenoaks his home in 2011.