The panto dame returns to the school to rehearse the students

Stephen Longstaff with head teacher Jenna Potter

A PROFESSIONAL pantomime woman has returned to her former school to mentor a young actor preparing to make his debut.

Stephen Longstaff held a workshop with Richmond School and Sixth Form College’s sixth former Toby Watson, who plays the Duchess in the upcoming production of Alice in Wonderland: The Fascinating Pantomime.

Stephen demonstrated the tricks of the trade for entertaining the audience and how to work the features of a woman’s perfect costume for maximum comic value.

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He also shared tips on how to use both accent and pitch to dramatic effect, depending on the tone of voice and the mood of a particular scene.

Toby quickly learned how to change his voice, as well as use exaggerated gestures and melodramatic expressions to get into character.

Stephen also offered advice on how to adjust to dressing up and walking in high heels, although Toby was a step ahead of him as he had been practicing walking and posture in high heels since July.

She wears a four-inch sequined stiletto heel “skyscraper” that she can only stand to wear for a few minutes at first. However, after wearing them religiously every day, she adjusted to the shoe’s foreign shape, overcame the initial pain, and adapted to fit her extra height!

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Toby, 16, who is studying Theater Studies, English Literature and English A Levels, said: “Although I’ve performed in many plays in the past, this is my first pantomime experience and I’m loving it! The humor of the script, the duality and the liveliness of the script are incredible. The cast is having so much fun and it’s infectious, so I’m sure it will rub off on the audience. I really appreciate Stephen taking the time to mentor me, it’s an honor to learn from a professional lady with over 20 years of experience.”

Stephen is the son of a farmer with his own stonemasonry and construction business, and Dales has a love of raising ponies and restoring old tractors – not your stereotypical pantomime lady!

Stephen said: “I first performed on stage at Ravensworth School when I was 11 and never looked back. I helped set up the Dalton Amateur Dramatic Society in 1999 and have done their pantos every year since, working my way up from being the front end of a cow to a woman. My first professional pantomime was in 2017 and I subsequently auditioned for The Majestic Theater in Darlington and have been their resident lady for four years, performing four pantos a year.”

“Tobi is going to be a wonderful woman – she already has impeccable comic timing and is all about working with the audience and appreciates the value of advertising – I can’t wait to see her!”

The lead role of Alice is played by 17-year-old Georgie O’Reilly, who plans to pursue a career in performing arts. With a number of important roles, Georgie is a talented all-rounder who is an excellent dancer, actor and singer and has applied to study musical theater at university next year.

The show is directed by Danni Manning, Lead Drama Teacher and Drama Teacher Stephen Birdsall: “The students have been working incredibly hard and the show has all the key ingredients we’ve all come to expect and love. a panto – plus a few more sprinkles! With Covid preventing our 2020 production from going ahead, Alice promises to be a colourful, fiery and spectacular song and dance extravaganza, bursting with whimsical comedy, lots of silly costumes and audience-participation bags and of course a show of ‘endless happiness’. – stop the final.”

Head teacher Jenna Potter added: “I taught Stephen German many years ago when he was with us in his first few years. It was great to work with Toby and bring him back to school to pass on his panto dame experience.

Alice in Wonderland will run for three nights from November 30 to December 2. Tickets cost £9 for adults, £7 for children (16 and under) or £30 for a family ticket.

They are available at

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