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Over-50s acting troupe tours Hackney with Christmas pantomime

PUBLISHED: 16:36 20 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:36 20 December 2019

The cast celebrate in the final number. Picture: Gbenga Olopade

The cast celebrate in the final number. Picture: Gbenga Olopade

Gbenga Olopade

A group of older actors have travelled across the borough dazzling audiences and making them laugh with their pantomime production of 'The Magic Suitcase.'

The Wolf is arrested. Picture: Steve LatnerThe Wolf is arrested. Picture: Steve Latner

A group of older actors have travelled across the borough dazzling audiences and making them laugh with their pantomime production of 'The Magic Suitcase.'

The over-50s Theatre Exchange acting troupe, often perform to people who find it hard to get to the theatre. They brought the show to lunch clubs, sheltered accommodation, hospices and estates in Hackney.

Actor Francis Sexton told the Gazette: "The audience got a lot out of the show and many in the community don't have any regular experience or access to theatre."

The story follows on from last year's adaption of Cinderella and saw 63-year-old Cindy Rella left at home to look after her dad while her ugly sisters swanned off to the Hackney Citizen of the Year Awards Ball.

Sleeping Beauty makes her way through the audience. Picture: Jo CarterSleeping Beauty makes her way through the audience. Picture: Jo Carter

This year, Cindy Rella discovered a suitcase full of strange objects and, as her prince was away on a business trip, she set off on an adventure travelling around the borough and meeting fairy-tale characters along the way.

Jack hasn't got a bean stalk and lives in a tower block, Goldilocks is a pop star looking for a toilet and Red Riding Hood has to deal with a wolf on Hackney Downs who's trying to swindle her granny into having her front drive concreted over.

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"Actually, someone knocked on my door offering to concrete the garden. Can you believe it? It just goes to show how relevant the show is," said Steve Latner who starred in the pantomime.

The Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood. Picture: Steve LatnerThe Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood. Picture: Steve Latner

Audience members and the actors themselves said they liked that the play was set Hackney and used familiar and relatable stories.

Actor Michael Cooper said: "It's a show that relates to older people that's fun yet thoughtful and meaningful."

The actors said theatre has built their confidence, helped them make friends and put their troubles aside.

"It allows you to be creative. The older you get the more things you need to be active and it keeps the memory going," said Alice Mckenna who played Little Red Riding Hood.

Goldilocks and two bears. Picture: Steve LatnerGoldilocks and two bears. Picture: Steve Latner

Theatre Exchange is an acting group for active older people run by community theatre charity Immediate Theatre.

Immediate theatre has also produced a re-working of Aladdin set in Hackney in the 1990s - this time the show features a group of young actors aged 12-18.

To find out more click here:

Or to donate to their Speech Bubbles project supporting children in Years 1 &2 with speech, language and communication needs click here

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