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She’s bright, she’s bubbly; she’s young, and she’s funny. Very funny. She’s Lauren Pattison, one of the rising stars of stand-up comedy, and heading to Northampton next month.

Lauren is a stand-up natural. She took to it like the proverbial duck to water from the moment she first gave it a go at 18, and such has been the impact she has made, Lauren has barely had a day off since turning professional just over a year ago.

Her shows – observational comedy, in which she shares her own life experiences – sell out. Indeed, there wasn’t a seat to be had during her run at the Edinburgh Festival in August, and so successful was that show, she is now taking it to venues around the country, including The Deco Theatre, in Northampton town centre, on Monday, November 19.

“I’m going to places I’ve been to before, and that I like, and Northampton fits the bill perfectly,” said Lauren, who has been making people laugh since she was at school in Newcastle. She said: “I was actually quite shy as a youngster, but in my teens I started doing drama and loved it; and what I loved most was making people laugh, so for me it seemed a natural segway to go from drama to comedy.

“I joined a local group for kids which specialised in comedy, which I loved, and from then on I listened to comedy, watched it on TV, and went to see it live; then at 18 I decided to go for it, and started looking for opportunities.

“The first gig I did was when I entered a competition for stand-ups near my home – I thought I’d give it a go, but also use the opportunity to meet people and get some advice,” she said. “I’d never done a gig before, but I got through to the semi-finals, which was really exciting.

“After that, I spoke to a local comedy club, who were good enough to find a slot for me, and from then on it was a chain reaction, with one gig leading to another, and so on.”

Lauren continued to gain experience during four years as a drama student at Northumbria University – she graduated with a first class masters degree – and combined studying with fitting in gigs wherever and whenever she could.

Her reputation flourished, and the next step was to move down to London to try her luck in the comedy clubs around and about the capital, though it was the after the five-star reviews she achieved for her debut Edinburgh Festival Show in 2017 that eventually gave her the confidence to turn professional, though she admits she did so with reservations.

“But it’s been an amazing year,” she said. “I’ve performed in Australia and Canada, I’ve appeared on TV in ‘The Comedy Store’, and I was nominated in the ‘Best Newcomer’ category for the Lastminute.com awards, so it’s gone really well.

“I now gig all over the country, and I love it; I’m earning a living doing something I find so fulfilling, and I’m enjoying every minute.”

Lauren describes herself on stage as ‘a storyteller’. She said: “My comedy is anecdotal and observational, I don’t do politics, nor do I do satire; the material I write is all based on my own experiences and observations.”

And a year on since turning professional, it is fair to observe that Lauren’s star is on the rise. “To think that last year I was excited, but also very scared,” she said. “I didn’t know where my next money was coming from, or if I was ever going to make it.”

But the flood of great reviews from critics and audiences alike speak for themselves. This rising star of stand-up comedy definitely made the right decision!

 You can see Lauren at The Deco, Northampton, on Monday, November 19. To book tickets, call the Box Office on 01604 491005 or book online: www.thedeco.co.uk/event/lauren-pattison-peachy/

 

Sammy Webb, who will be playing one of the two Ugly Sisters in ‘Cinderella’ this December, is not only one of the stars of our Panto, he is also the boss! Sammy is directing the show, too. And The Deco could not have a better person at the helm: if anyone knows what makes good Panto, it is Sammy – a Panto fanatic, be it as a performer, director, or a member of the audience.

Indeed, Sammy’s love of Panto, and his expertise, is such that he is soon to start a PhD in Pantomime! And if that is not enough to prove beyond doubt his enthusiasm, two years ago he launched the annual British Pantomime Awards, which proved to be an instant success.

“I absolutely love Panto, and always have done,” said Sammy, who lives in Northamptonshire, and runs the Brackley Youth Theatre. “It’s why I co-founded the Great British Pantomime awards in 2016, which honours and rewards the best Pantos and performers from all over the country.

“Theatre has its Olivier awards, film has the BAFTAs, so why shouldn’t Panto have its own glamourous, and much deserved, awards night,” he said. “Since we launched it two years ago, it’s been really successful, and this year, for instance, we’ll have over 25 judges watching well more than a hundred shows all over the country.

“Among the awards given out, are for Best Panto, Best Comic, Best Double Act, Best Fairy, Best Baddie, Best Script, Best Special Effects.”

And Sammy is delighted to be working with The Deco for this year’s Christmas Panto. “The Deco’s reputation for top quality Panto snowballs year on year, and I’m absolutely delighted to be involved in ‘Cinderella’,” he said.

“We’ve got a fantastic cast of very talented performers, and everyone is so lovely to be around, not just the actors, but the team behind the scene; there’s a fantastic chemistry throughout the production, and that can only be good for making great Panto.

“It’s my first Panto at The Deco, so that’s really exciting,” he said. “I’ve directed a few Pantos before but since moving to Northamptonshire a few years ago; I was asked if I’d be interested in directing ‘Cinderella’ at The Deco, and I jumped at the chance, and the opportunity to be in it too!”

So as an expert in Panto, what makes a good show?

“For me personally, I love the relationship between audience and performer,” said Sammy. “I love the freedom of interaction with the audience during the show; the off-the-cuff laughs that you can have.

“One thing I picked up quickly was the camaraderie, the banter, and respect among the cast, and with the team behind the scenes, which is something I know is important to The Deco, and though it’s been said before, I totally agree that if the audience see you all having fun together on stage, and enjoying it as much as they are, then you’re on to a winner.”

And Sammy’s favourite memory of Panto? “I loved the late, great John Inman in Panto, the ultimate Panto Dame over many years until his death in 2007. He was awesome!

“But there have been, and are, many other amazing performers who do exactly what Panto should do: provide fantastic family entertainment, engage the audience, have fun while they’re doing it, and make great memories.

“If that’s what we can achieve at The Deco this December, then no one will be happier than me; and I’ve absolutely no reason to doubt that ‘Cinderella’ is going to be yet another Deco winner!”

For tickets for Cinderella at The Deco: www.thedeco.co.uk, or call the Box Office on 01604 491005. Alternatively, call in at The Deco, on Abington Square, between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Saturday.

For more information about the Panto Awards, visit the website: https://www.pantomimeawards.co.uk/

For more information about Brackley Youth Theatre: https://www.facebook.com/BrackleyYouthTheatre/

For tickets for Cinderella, go to https://www.thedeco.co.uk/event/cinderella/, call the Box Office on 01604 491005, or call in at The Deco, in Abington Square, Northampton, Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm.

 

To those who know her, Panto star Fern Roach is probably best known as the ‘Little Miss Billy Whizz’ you see running around The Deco on show nights, fulfilling a multitude of duties, yet taking it all in her stride. From organising the technical side of a show, to selling ice-creams at the interval, if it needed to be done, Fern would do it.

But little did people realise that deep down, 21-year-old Fern nurtured a secret desire to be on the stage performing, rather than being very busy behind the scenes. Or that she had hidden talents as both a singer and an actor. But she did, and she has. And if anyone needed any persuading of her abilities, then the proof was her performance in ‘Cats’, The Deco’s summer youth project, in particular her acclaimed singing of ‘Memory’, the classic song from that show.

“To be honest, I’d always wanted to have a go, right from when I was a young girl,” said Fern, born and raised in Northampton, and whose appearance as the Fairy Godmother in ‘Cinderella’ will be her third Deco Panto, having previously been a dog in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ three years ago, and a mermaid in ‘Peter Pan’ last Christmas. “That said, when I was growing up, horses were my great love; I’ve been riding since I was four, and competed at shows all over the country.

“I still love horses, but after finishing my education, and starting work as a stage-hand with the family business Stage Right, and then working at The Deco in various roles, I started to think that it was something I’d like to do.”

Stage Right is the company that manages and runs The Deco, so Fern was well placed to follow her dream, and if anyone needed proof she could cope under pressure, then she showed those qualities back in 2014, when she took on the duties as deputy stage manager for ‘Wizard of Oz’, and coped admirably.

“I was supposed to be the number two, but the SM had to pull out just days before the First Night, and I was thrown into the thick of the action,” she remembered. “I had no choice but to get on with it, but looking on from the side of the stage, it was then I started to seriously consider performing on it, rather than make things happen off it!

“So I went on an adult Musical Theatre course, which I really enjoyed, and the following year I asked my mum if I could audition for a role in the 2015 Panto ‘Beauty and the Beast’; but she already had a role in mind for me: as Dave The Dog!”

Mum is Jill Roach, house manager at The Deco and co-owner of Stage Right, who has encouraged Fern’s enthusiasm for performing, and who gave her the opportunity to audition for the Mermaid role in ‘Peter Pan’ last year.

“It wasn’t just any audition,” said Fern. “When I told mum I was interested, I had to sing in front of her and dad there and then, in the living room, with no time for any rehearsal!

“Talk about being put on the spot, but happily they were both genuinely impressed and I got the part – and don’t ever think they give me any allowance as proud parents: mum and dad have extremely high standards, and if they hadn’t have thought I was good enough, then I wouldn’t have got the part.”

And anyone who saw Fern’s performance in ‘Cats’ would verify that she is winning her roles on merit. “I really enjoyed that, and this year I’ve done another course in musical theatre, and also courses in acting and dance.”

Little Miss Billy Whizz is now very much Little Miss Showbiz!

“I’m taking this very seriously, and I’m going to work hard, keep auditioning for roles at The Deco and elsewhere, and let’s see where it takes me,” she said. “You can’t help but learn so much by working with top class and experienced performers like Lee Bright, Colin Ridgewell, Chris Wills, Lydia Lucy, Sammy Webb, and Clive Fletcher, as I will be in ‘Cinderella’, so I’m very lucky.

“The most important thing is that I’m loving what I’m doing, and I’m just so excited about being in ‘Cinderella’ – we’ve another terrific show for our audiences.”

Fern will be appearing in ‘Cinderella’ at The Deco between December 7 and 29. Tickets can be booked online: www.thedeco.co.uk, by calling the Box Office on 01604 491005, or from The Deco, in Abington Square, Northampton, between 10am and 4pm Monday to Saturday.

 

Last week’s Deco Theatre Summer Youth Project, run with Arts Academy Theatre School, was a huge success, and there has been some lovely feedback from proud parents, including Robert Welch, whose son Harry, 16, played Rooster in the production of Annie on Saturday. Unlike some of the young people involved it was Harry’s first performance on stage (other than school productions) and he exceeded expectations in both shows. His proud dad said Harry’s self-confidence has increased and commends the week long project to all.  Read more

 
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