Sunday evening, fire lit and Downton on. Perfect! I’m so relieved that Lord Grantham is still alive after the alien moment last week. I’m not medically trained but is that how an ulcer can react when it bursts? Gosh I love a costume drama and there must be something in the name Mary that makes my heart miss a beat or two Lady Mary and then there’s the special Mary B. Now to focus, but now a new puppy has arrived for Lord Grantham. How can I focus?

So it’s been a lovely half term with some very unusual events not least the press launch of my first panto for the New Theatre, Cardiff this coming festive season. Panto is just so much a part of Christmas for many of us and in fact it’s usually the first time that many children venture into a theatre.

The only member of the cast that I knew before last Wednesday was Mike Doyle but by the end of the day I had adopted a new family. The press launch was at St David’s Hall and the cast were assembled ready for an 11am start.

Jonathan Kiley, the executive Producer from Qdos Entertainment introduced the cast to each other. Before me were faces and names that I had seen from stage & TV. Heading the talented line up and sitting opposite me was the delightful Linda Lusardi (Spirit of the Ring). She really has done everything in the entertainment industry and in her little black number was looking the star that she is.

Next to Linda was her well-groomed hubby and our baddie (Abanazar), Sam Kane known to most of us for his characters in Brookside and Emmerdale.  Then arrived the very youthful and highly energised “H” (Ian H Watkins) from Steps (Aladdin). I had no idea how much Ian had done other the hugely successful Steps but his career has taken him to the West End in shows like Joseph, Fame, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and even CBBC. What a guy!!

My daughter in the show (Jasmine) will be played by the beautiful Holly Bluett who you can find in the Cadbury’s adverts as an Air Stewardess. Now the last member of the gang who was able to join us last Wednesday was probably the noisiest and most excitable of us all Gareth “Alfie” Thomas (genie).  Yes was even more excited than I was, although I do think that my red Emperors costume is the best. He was like a little child in a sweet shop. Everything delighted him and he really can’t wait to start rehearsals and get strutting on the stage.

We had three hours of interviews with much laughter and if last Wednesday was anything to go by I think I might be having a very delightful season at the New Theatre. If you’re around over the festive period in Cardiff please pop by the stage door and say hello and make sure you book your tickets soon as they are flying out.

This article was originally published in the Carmarthen Journal in Mark’s weekly column for the paper.

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