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Diary of a professional panto fairy!
Liana the panto fairy!
Liana the panto fairy!

For local actress Liana Bridges, a childhood wish has finally been granted!

This Christmas, with a wave of her wand and a bit of magic fairy dust, Liana will appear on stage as a professional panto fairy! Read on...

  see also  
 

Christmas pantos in Cambridgeshire

On Stage
Find out what's on at your local theatre

Christmas in Cambridgeshire

 
  internet links  
 

Liana Bridges CV
Find out more about Liana!

Cambridge Corn Exchange
Find out when and where to watch the Christmas Show - The Wizard of Oz!

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Check out Liana's backstage photo gallery »

Diary of a panto fairy:
1st December »
7th December »
9th December »
10th December »
14th December »
15th December »
18th December »
22nd December »
24th December »
26th December »
2nd January »
5th January »
7th January »
9th January »
10th January »
11th January »

Check out Liana's backstage photo gallery »

Ever since she was a little nipper, local girl Liana Bridges has dreamed of being a fairy godmother. After years of hard work (and many auditions!), her dream has finally come true, and this year she's starring as the 'Good Witch of the East' in the Cambridge Corn Exchange Christmas Show, 'The Wizard of Oz'.

Join Liana as she reveals what really happens behind the scenes... From hectic rehearsals through to first night nerves, with our panto diary you can re-live the excitement at every stage:Diary of a panto fairy

Liana as the panto fairy!
Liana the panto fairy!

11th January 2004:
"The Final Day" or "There's no place like home"

We are nearly at the interval of the final show.

Everyone seems to have recovered from the Cod Panto last night, a few hangovers but only a little pride hurt.

Another Munchkin tea upstairs today, to say our goodbyes to the rest of the children. Michael was especially sweet and very brave I might add to be one of only two boys in amongst 40 girls! He's a brilliant little performer.

My husband is out the front watching the show, he always sees me on the last performance and so it's a sign of Panto being over for another year.

The atmosphere in the dressing room is a little sullen, things are being packed away as we finish with them by the wardrobe girls and the crew. Off they will go into storage until next time.

Names and addresses are being exchanged and promises of meeting up 'very soon'. Some people you may work with again and others you may hear about through mutual friends in the months to come.

The little ones are always a bit weepy on the last day but for us seasoned Panto fairies we know in a few months we'll be thinking about dusting off the wand again for next Christmas.

I hope you've enjoyed your visit to Pantoland with a Professional Pantomime Fairy, and you now know a little about what goes on backstage.

And what will happen to me now? I can't answer that, I shall just have to wait and see.

One things for sure… I'm four months pregnant but that's another story!

All the best in 2004...

Liana

10th January 2004:
"24 Hours to go" or "Techies in Tights"

Everyone is very excited today as the crew will be performing their 'Cod Panto'. The cast of Aladdin will also be popping in from over the road to join us for a drink or two. I've also heard a few Cambridge councillors will be coming too, who knows what they will think of it all!!? I shall let you know in my last diary entry tomorrow how it all goes and who pulls a moody strop!

Dorothy and Aladdin are now an item by the way!

My Mum & Dad are watching the show today, and I can just about see them from the stage. You can't really see very far into the audience, as the lights are so bright they dazzle you.

Its also the first Munchkin team's last day so we were invited upstairs to their dressing room for nibbles and party games - the price for this was signing 20 childrens autograph books, and we will do it all over again tomorrow for the second team. Ah bless them. Tears before curtain call I shouldn't wonder! People have started to pack away their cards and various bits and bobs that made the dressing rooms homely. It's a fact that you always leave with more than you arrived with.

Tomorrow's the last day. The Director Alan Harding will come to see the show and also my husband. It's nearly over and I feel a bit sad.

Liana

9th January 2004:
"The Cod Pantomime" or "Do I really look like that?"

One more party to go and five more shows. Tomorrow the backstage crew (the techies!) are going to do their own version of the show. 'The Cod Panto'.

At the end of the panto season most crew, stage management, wardrobe, lighting and sound get their revenge. They are very secretive about us hearing them rehearse and the script. Needless to say its 18+ viewing and not anything you'd wish your mother to see.

If you have given anyone backstage any grief, had a panto romance or done anything at all during the run that you wish you hadn't, then beware! Nobody gets off lightly so it's best to have a couple of drinks and take it all with a pinch of salt (after the double vodka!).

Having said that I do know of several actors who didn't take it at all well, here's an example:
Four years ago I was in Aladdin at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, the actor playing Aladdin wasn't the best, poor fellow (he shall remain nameless for his sake!) and when it came to 'The Cod Panto' at the end of the run at his entrance someone pulled on a rope and on the end was a plank of wood, with a face nailed to a skateboard... see what I mean!

A very butch crew member with a shaven head and neck like a tree trunk has asked to borrow my wand. Oh Dear.

Liana

7th January 2004:
"5 Days to go" or "Poppies, Roses & Romance"

Oh my god! I've the best piece of gossip for you… Our very own Dorothy has struck up a pantomime romance with Wishy Washy across the road in Aladdin! It's only in its earliest days, but as you can imagine both are being teased constantly. Will tell you more as I hear it. We only have a few days left so they'd better get a move on.

Other things that have happened today - I had a surprise visit from Pam & Graham, a lovely couple that I've stayed with while in Panto in St Albans. Thy brought me 200 dates stuffed with marzipan. Very unexpected all round.

It's the interval now and I had to tell you what I've just overheard - the children at one point in the show dress up as poppies, one of them stood at the side of the stage looking really fed up so one of the stage crew went over and asked if the child was okay, "No" came the reply, "I don't want to be a poppy", "Why?" said the crew member "Do you feel silly?". "Yes" said the child "I want to be a rose!". Ah bless. Better not name them in case a parent wants revenge.

Sometimes I sit and wonder what's going on back at home in Manchester. My phone bill is sky high, but at Panto time it's the only contact with the outside world. I listen to the radio driving up and down the A14 but apart from that I haven't got a clue what's going on in the real world and I haven't watched TV for weeks. Now the end is so close it feels like I've been under water and now I can almost see the surface. I've remembered that there are bills to pay and I have to find a job. I've started to run out of glitter - that could be a disaster! All I seem to eat are sandwiches and jacket potatoes (if the van is in the market square), so sitting here now I'd love a big plate of home cooked food. Actually, a chip butty would do. Normally you don't want a big dinner before the show and you're too tired after - so another bowl of sugar puffs it is then.

News flash - I've just heard the Tin Man has fallen off the stage! Only his pride is hurt! The audience is screaming with laughter!!!

Liana

5th January 2004:
"The Last Week" or "Partying & Paranoia"

We are now in the last week of our Panto run. Two things happen at this point - firstly lots and lots of parties, and the question on everyone's lips, "So what are you doing next?". The answer to this should be dealt with swiftly and painlessly, not with too many "ermms…" or "I'm waiting to hear about…". I'd suggest something short and sweet along the lines of "I dunno". Of course, there is a general mix of people going on to do all sorts of things, but whatever they do, nothing is quite the same as Panto.

In 'The Stage' this week (that's one of the industry newspapers) we got a really good review so that's put a spring in everyone's step. You try not to take too much notice of reviews but everyone is always curious about what's been written.

I probably shouldn't tell you this but I will anyway... The Lion (Simon Slater) has had very bad wind (or so the dancers report). Being zipped into a giant furry baby-gro isn't the most hygienic of garments and not even a generous spray of Febreeze helps. I'm glad I don't get that close to him.

I couldn't believe what I saw at the side of the stage as I ran on to make my entrance; on a shelf at the side were four bottles of water labelled 'Dorothy' 'Tin Man' 'Scarecrow' 'Lion' and a large chicken drumstick! Turns out that's for Binkey the dog who's playing 'Toto'. Very Surreal!

Liana

2nd January 2004:
"Happy New Year" or "Poofs & Pyros"

In the last couple of days just before New Year and today (2nd January), I seem to have had a bad run of mishaps. (Perhaps it's Golden Gordon's mystical waving paw? See 26th December).

I got a little enthusiastic with my wand waving tonight and a bead on the end of one of the prongs flew off. Good job I noticed as if I'd continued one of the Munchkins may have been impailed in the head. The wand was rushed off in the interval to be glued by Tony the A.S.M. (Assistant Stage Manager), it seems fine now.

The second mishap involved me and a 'pyro'. A pyro is a controlled electrical explosion pod, or to you and me it's the poof of smoke I appear in. These can be dangerous and so I try to stand as far away as possible - a little difficult dressed in a pink wedding cake. Sometimes a small piece of the paper lid floats down to the stage still hot and I already have crater marks in my shoulders and loads in my dress. Today however, a piece burnt through my false eyelash and through a couple of mine as well. I must have looked very strange jumping on stage making my entrance and then smacking myself in the eye just in case it had caught fire! I'm okay and Dorothy didn't even notice! The show must go on and all that.

It's all very quiet in our dressing room today; Storme's given up smoking as her New Year's resolution and is chomping her way through a bag of lollipops, the Munchkin is playing with her new mobile phone and Jacqui is nursing a mild hangover.

My New Year was spent sleeping and watching TV - Lovely! Some of the cast went to see Aladdin at the Arts Theatre. They enjoyed it very much but I was glad I was home.

Better go, it's almost the end of Act 1. Golden Gordon is still waving his paw - the battery must be nuclear powered!

Liana

26th December 2003:
"Boxing Day" or "Hangovers and Turkey Sandwiches"

We all arrived back today after our two day break, some a little worse for wear and a few with the compulsory turkey sandwiches.

Working on Boxing Day is a little strange, as the town or city that you are in is usually deserted, and nothing is ever open. On top of that we have said goodbye to loved ones and been up hours travelling (even more so for those poor souls brave enough to use public transport!). After the shock to the system of the first show, we all take part in a great pantomime tradition "The Grab Bag", or as you may know it "Secret Santa". I shall try and explain this as best I can…

"The Grab Bag"
A few days before Christmas all 42 of us put our names in a hat, and then it's passed around for us to pull out the name of our 'victim'. We all then go forth and spend £5 trying to buy an appropriate present for our 'victim'. This poses several problems…
• Firstly, as there are 42 of us it is very possible you don't know who you are buying the present for.
• Do you buy something silly and fun or practical or try to be clever?
• Remembering to go to the shops in the first place. If you don't buy the present before Christmas, you are faced with the fact that everything is closed on Boxing Day.

My victim is a "Techie". A "Techie" is a breed of person who is very important to the smooth running of the show, they always wear black and are never seen by the audience - more on this subject another time.

Meanwhile back to the grab bag - so there we are, all gathered on the stage just before 'the half' (this is another weird theatre term which isn't 30 mins before the show as you may imagine but actually 35 minutes before) remind me to explain this another time.

So there we all are waiting to open our secret presents in front of everyone else. This can be a very embarrassing moment. Gavin, my 'Techie' victim I've only ever seen once and we haven't even passed the time of day so it was very hard to know what to buy him. This is what I bought: A mini table football game with bubble gum balls (Safe bet!); A strange game involving two plastic frying pans and some plastic eggs. The idea of the game is to bat the eggs with the frying pan - you get the idea (Inspired if original). If you think that's odd… It wasn't a patch on my grab bag present! I may take a photo of it for you after Christmas.

'The Thing' is the size of a moneybox and covered in gold foil. I think it's a Chinese good luck cat. The best bit is the paw it waves at you when you switch it on. It's now been named 'Golden Gordon' and lives in my dressing room, when in actual fact it should be in an episode of 'Tales of the Unexpected". I don't have a clue who got it for me. Maybe Gordon's cursed ooh eer…

Liana

Liana as the panto fairy!
Liana the panto fairy!

24th December 2003:
"There's no place like home" or "They've sold out of brussel sprouts"

This is the first Christmas in about eight years that I haven't worked Christmas Eve. We usually get Christmas Day off and work the days either side so this is a real 'Brucey Bonus'. It's not just two days off in Pantoland, it's a chance to go home.

Part and parcel of working in a pantomime is the being away from home, we all realise this when we sign on the dotted line, so this extra day is brilliant. I won't be able to go back to Manchester, but my husband is coming down to visit - he's working backstage at the pantomime in Chester and is also lucky enough to get the 'Brucey Bonus' Christmas Eve off.

At this point every year, the fact that I haven't done all my shopping dawns on me - oh yes, don't think I don't try to get all my pressies bought and wrapped in November, most are because they have to be, I learnt this after spending the most miserable shopping day of my life in Llundudno, with only a Woolworths for company and a 50p & £1 shop. Grim.

But it's done so early that I always think "there's only my Dad's parcel to get, I'll do that when I get to Panto", and of course it's always so busy I forget, so I shall be out with the last minute frantic panic buyers in Cambridge on Christmas Eve. Grim again.

Oh, I know what I had to tell you, the other day after the show a few of the cast stayed for a drink in one of the dressing rooms and managed to get locked in. The alarms all went off, the police turned up and there they were explaining to the officer that they were 'The Mayor of Munchkin Land' and a 'Poppy'. That would never stand up in court. The good fairy was tucked up in bed.

P.S. Here's Liza's recipe I promised:

Wicked Witch Waffles

2 Cups all-purpose flour
½ Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon baking soda
2 Teaspoons baking powder
4 Large eggs
½ Cup honey
2/3 Cup plain yoghurt
1 & 1/3 Cups milk
2 Teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ Cup unsalted butter, melted
½ Gallon vanilla frozen yoghurt
2 Pints fresh strawberries, hulled, sliced and tossed with 1 tablespoon sugar

In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, honey and yoghurt. Whisk milk slowly into egg mixture, and then add vanilla extract. Make a well in the centre of dry ingredients, pour milk mixture slowly into centre while whisking continuously. Beat until smooth. Whisk in butter. Cook waffles in waffle iron according to manufacturers instructions. Serve waffles warm with a scoop of frozen yoghurt and a spoonful of sliced strawberries.

Makes about 12 waffles.

Liana

22nd December 2003:
"Up & Running" or "Panto Petticoats"

The opening night went without a hitch and my cold is getting better. Liza came into my dressing room with a lemon and some very expensive honey for me, which was very thoughtful. I'm also catching up on sleep.

My petticoat came undone mid scene yesterday and so ten layers of net and a large hoop gradually headed toward the floor, luckily the dress is so massive that I could shuffle around the stage with it dragging on the floor and not even a Munchkin noticed!

Costumes: It's not just a case of putting what you've been given on and saying your lines; costumes play a huge part in pantomime and boy have I got a lot to say on the subject! Visiting Pantoland as a child, the costumes seemed magical and fantastic, in size and amount of sparkle. I remember feeling betrayed when on a visit backstage I saw the princess in her 'going to the ball' costume walking past me on the way to the toilet and what I thought from the audience was a dress made of the finest silk and thread, turned out to be an old curtain a bit like a pair at my Nan's house and a couple of tree decorations I'd seen in 'Boots'.

I have since discovered that most things look good, if they are lit well and worn with confidence.

A friend of mine, Becky Vere, had to wear old sacking in 'Les Miserables' and although she complained about the way it rubbed under her arms, beneath the lights and on a great set she looked stunning and if she'd told me it had been designed by Gucci instead of Tate & Lyle I would have believed her!

Our costumes however, are made of very pretty fabric and not curtains. Sometimes they haven't been made to fit you alone and so need a nip and a tuck. Fairy dresses are not made for comfort and it's wise not to drink too many fluids as going to the toilet in a dress five foot wide is a learned art.

The other thing about costumes covered in glitter and gems is that they can't be washed. Luckily I'm not a smelly fairy but some of the dresses do suffer - poor things - and are never without a bottle of 'fabreeze'.

Tights and socks and that sort of thing do get washed every night, but always write your name on the label or you will never see your tights again. They are also flame proof, which is a good job too, as fairies always appear in a puff of smoke.

I will tell you more about costumes another day - told you I had a lot to say! Better get driving to Cambridge as it's started to snow!

Liana

18th December 2003:
Opening night...

Today the show opens and I've got a cold. Luckily not a full blown streamer, but every time I blow my nose glitter comes out (see 7th December!).

The last couple of days have been very long indeed, not helped by me. I'm so scared of getting stuck on the A14 that I've been setting off early and missing out on valuable fairy zzz's. This stems back to the days when I presented Sooty and a nasty accident on the A12 meant I missed the show, it was a horrible feeling and not one I'd wish to repeat.

Storme (one of the dancers), Kelly (the Munchkin Mayor) and I wandered the streets of Cambridge last night; the car park is £20 if you leave before 8.30pm and £3 if you leave after 8.30pm and that soon adds up over a month. And so there we were, lost panto souls looking for a Pizza Express... the possible origin of my cold.

Jess's lucky Barbie
Lucky Barbie!

The excitement of the first show with an audience is building now. People keep popping into the dressing room to visit us - possibly because we have tea bags and a kettle (thanks to Kelly's dad). Flowers and good luck cards are arriving. Two big bunches for me, HURRAH! People are rushing around even more now and many seem to have habits that come to light around this time - like family pictures they put up and bringing in a dressing gown given to them by a panto dame 25 years ago, that sort of thing. The weirdest of these belongs to Jess (Dorothy), whose Mum posted her a parcel which turned out to be 'Lucky Barbie'. Me…? All I have is a box of tissues and some apricots for later - very boring.

Liza Goddard has visited every dressing room with a specially made t-shirt with "The Wizard of Oz" written on it and a good luck card with a recipe for "Waffles" on the back - very thoughtful, organised and useful. Jane Asher would never have thought of that.

I better go as a mystery blob of something black has appeared on my pale pink dress and I should take it to Fiona (The Wardrobe Mistress).

5 mins later…. Oops I tried to wash the blob off myself. Now it's a nasty mess. Think I should own up.

BBC Cambridgeshire have dropped me in a camera to show you life backstage so I'm going to take a few shots.

20 mins to curtain up, will let you know how it goes very soon!

Liana

15th December 2003:
"The Technical" or "Should I be singing in the dark?"

Today in Cambridge we begin the longest part of the rehearsal period called "The Tech". This is where the scenery, lights, sound, actors and musicians come together for the first time, and try to make the whole jumble look like a show. This takes hours, as you often have to go back and do bits again. A good tip is to always stand where you are told to and remember to look for a piece of tape or blob of paint on the stage to stand on each time or trust me, you'll be singing in the dark if you don't!

We're called until 10pm tonight, so I'd better get the route home right or I'll be sleeping at the theatre - that brings me neatly onto:

Dressing Rooms
It's very important to make the dressing room like home as soon as possible with cards and anything else you can think of. People take this a little far sometimes and I have worked with a chap who used to bring a tablecloth, full tea service and carpet, and if you got invited to afternoon tea it was like meeting the Queen.

Who you share this sacred space with is also very important. The stars are usually on their own and in some theatres are lucky enough to have sofas, beds, TV, a fridge and the most sought after dressing room accessory 'a window'! Those of us not so famous share the dressing room with other cast members, and as long as they don't have any odd habits, it's nice to have others to talk to when you are not on stage. Don't expect a window though!

I'd better go to bed as I'm starting to waffle and no day off is starting to take its toll.

Liana

14th December 2003:
"We're off to see the Wizard" or "Who knows where the theatre is?"

Today is the first day for a week that I've seen daylight. London rehearsals over. Today is the first day in Cambridge. So, blinking like a baby mole let out into the sun, I set off up the A14 to rehearse at the King Slocombe Dance School with the munchkins. How nice not to be on the tube and in my warm Beetle with a bag of Jelly Tots and CD's playing. But oh no, it couldn't be that easy….

Everyone in the know told me to park at The Lion Yard car park. It's brilliantly sign-posted until two streets before, and at that point I drove around and around for 30 minutes passing the same bearded bloke on a bike.

When I did eventually find the car park (total luck), it was full of Sunday Christmas shoppers and I had to park on level 9 (that's a lot of steps for a fairy).

Seeing 40 tap dancing children at the dance school made the journey worth it. After trying to learn another dance routine (badly), Dorothy, the Mayor of Munchkin land and myself went for a cuppa - before I spent the next hour driving round in circles again, looking for an A14 sign. Giving up, I went up and down the M11 both ways before finding the way back to my Mum's.

Back to Cambridge tomorrow and it should be a good day if I can find the Yellow Brick road, I mean the Lion Yard.

Liana

10th December 2003:
"Taking Shape" or "Two left feet and a wand".

Today we started where we left off yesterday. The show is taking shape at a rapid pace now, and I think by the end of the week we will be able to make an attempt at running the whole show (minus 20 munchkins who will be joining us in Cambridge!).

Liza Goddard
Liza Goddard

It's always strange when you work with people you've seen on the telly and you secretly hope they will be nice. Luckily, this is the case with Liza Goddard who's playing the Wicked Witch and I'm happy to report to you all that she isn't a Wicked Witch at all. In fact, she's a very hard worker and has dogs (always a good sign in my book).

I was really enjoying the day, until I found out that I had to dance. Now, I'm not the worst dancer in the world, but I'm still rustier than a Tin Man. So, bearing in mind I will have on a large pink dress, and be holding a four-foot wand - it wasn't the best news. I'm sure if any of the professional dancers in the show are reading this when they have picked themselves off the floor and stopped laughing they will wonder why I'm making such a fuss about a few steps, so I'd like to remind them they are dancers and I'm a fairy, whoever heard of a dancing fairy? Pah!

I was feeling quite pleased with myself having mastered half the dance routine (thanks to the patience of Jackie, a very good dancer) and I felt a surge of relief, until, that is, the director told us we'd be learning the other half of the routine on Sunday in Cambridge with the munchkins!

Sorry Mum, Christmas shopping is cancelled. There's no rest for a good fairy!

Darcey Bussell (Liana x)

Liana

9th December 2003:
"First day of rehearsals" or "Sorry, is that my line?"

Today's been a long, busy day. I got up at 5.30 (yep you heard right 5.30AM!) to catch the train from Harwich to Waterloo for the first day of rehearsals.

I'm a mixture of tired and excited. The rehearsal room we're using at the Old Vic is up about 10 flights of stairs to the top of the building. There is an amazing Victorian glass roof and ballet mirrors the full length of one wall.

Pantoland is a very small country, inhabited by people who for the most part have worked with each other before, or that have a mutual friend in common who worked with you the year before. (Or probably snogged your friend the year before!).

So, it was nice to see a few familiar faces. A fantastic director, Alan Harding, directed me in "Aladdin" in Bradford four years ago. I also know Tony Kemp who is playing my husband "Uncle Henry". He'd been my hubby two years ago in St. Albans, so we're good mates.

The full company sits together in a circle with a cup of tea and then read through the script to get an idea of who's playing who, and which scenes fit where. As soon as that's out of the way we start 'blocking', this means the director tells us where we come from and go off. This is very useful as it makes sure we don't bump into each other and that the audience will be able to see all the action clearly without an important scene happening behind a cart. You get the picture?

I just had time to go through my songs for the first time before clinging to the side of the tube again for the return journey. Then bed before the whole thing begins again...

Liana

7th December 2003:
"Follow The Yellow Brick Road"... or "M6, A50, M1, A14".

The car's packed and I'm just about to leave for Pantoland. After all these years of working away from home, I'm still rubbish at packing! Seven coats and nine pairs of shoes! Fairies need shoes, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Waving goodbye to my husband and home never gets any easier, but I know I will love it when I get there. Think I've got everything...?

How to pack fairy essentials
A fairy has certain things she just can't do without. These are as follows:

Eyelashes: First rule - always buy the best. They need to be sturdy, long and black. Too short and they are not worth the bother of peeling the glue off your eyelids every night and they won't show up from the stage. Too long and you may stab yourself in the eye.
Face Glitter: Now you have to get this right. If the pieces are too big they just fall off. Too small and you need loads so when you wipe it off it takes three layers of skin with it. Don't ever use the gel with glitter in it, as so few pieces are in the gel it looks like chicken pox when layered on your face. It also gives you a strange shine under the lights, not to mention a nasty rash that lasts until June. Talking of June, that's about the time you will stop finding glitter in your teeth, car and knickers after the panto's finished.
Wand, Tiara and Dress: These will be provided by the panto company, which is a good job as the car is full of shoes!

I think that's everything! First day of rehearsals tomorrow, so I'd better get going. Of course, by Stoke On Trent I'll realise that I've left something really important.

Liana

1st December 2003:
For me, Christmas means one thing (apart from it being my birthday on Christmas day!). Most of the build-up revolves around that great British tradition; the pantomime!

Some of my earliest memories are from my dad's annual work outings to the Norwich Theatre Royal to watch the pantomime. The journey from Harwich to Norwich seemed vast and even if I was sick on the way it was always worth it!

So there I'd sit; transfixed as "Benny" from Crossroads waved Cinders off to the ball. I could hear my heart beating faster. I'd never get up to go to the loo, and I didn't even want a choc-ice or any of my brother's sherbet lemons. It was suddenly all too clear… I WANTED TO BE THE FAIRY GODMOTHER, AND I WANTED TO HELP CINDERS GO TO THE BALL!

That was my epiphany at age eight. I had so many questions:
1) Is it ok for fairies to come from Harwich?
2) Do they go to comprehensive schools?
3) What qualifications do fairies need?

Three years later I needed to see the school careers officer. I explained my lofty ambitions with great gusto... he looked at me and muttered something about typing (I should have listened). I realised then that I was on my own.

I joined operatic societies of various sizes, spent a harrowing three years at drama school in London, managed to get an agent or two and had to suffer loads of auditions... worse than Pop Idol by miles!

Then it happened; I got my first part in a professional pantomime playing Wendy in Peter Pan at the Forum Theatre in Manchester. No wand and only a small amount of glitter - but hey - I did get to fly 15ft above the stage on the end of a wire... always a bit unpredictable as you never know how enthusiastic the stagehand is going to be on the other end of the rope! Luckily I only crashed into the scenery on a couple of occasions (nothing broken, only my pride) - oh - and I eventually married the chap on the other end of the rope; very wise move!

The Wizard Of Oz at the Cambridge Corn Exchange marks my eighth year in panto and over the next few weeks with the help of BBC Cambridgeshire you'll be sharing the panto season with me. From rehearsals at the Old Vic in London to opening night nerves and backstage antics, I'll also be answering those questions you've always wanted to ask a panto fairy, like "what's the best glitter to use in your wand?"

We start rehearsals on the 8th December; I've got the script so see you there...

Liana

Check out Liana's backstage photo gallery »

Come back next week for the following instalment of Liana's panto diary. She'll be revealing what goes on behind the scenes with photos, thoughts and a bit of gossip!

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