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Veteran of Nottingham Playhouse pantomimes
Rebecca Little in Beauty and the Beast
Rebecca Little played Florence in Beauty and the Beast in 2009/10

Nottingham's famous pantomime director, Kenneth Alan Taylor, has a rival from within his own ranks.

Having learnt her skills from the master, Rebecca Little hopes one day to be able to produce her own panto.

For more than a decade she has performed in the annual pantomime at the Nottingham Playhouse.

Her run began in 1998. She has only missed two seasons since, including a time she was not offered a part and had to get a job as a waitress.

Getting started

Rebecca Little's love affair with Nottingham and the Christmas Playhouse production started in 1998 when she auditioned for the lead role in Jack and the Beanstalk.

Since then she has appeared in Kenneth Alan Taylor's Nottingham productions of Mother Goose, Dick Whittington, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Aladdin.

It is a return visit she always looks forward to.

She said: "It's the relationship you form with the cast and the crew. We're one big family. I think it's because it's a special time of year. Everybody is in a jolly and social mood."

Take nothing for granted

Although she is pretty much a regular with Kenneth Alan Taylor's panto troupe, Rebecca Little said there is no guarantee she will be in next year's production.

Rebecca Little puts on her make-up
It only takes Rebecca half an hour to put on her make-up

"I never assume I'm going to be asked back. You basically wait to be asked. I've been very lucky in the last few years where Kenneth has come to me towards the end of the run and said he'd like me to play such and such a character the next year.

"There was a gap one year when I wasn't asked straight away and I'd already taken a panto elsewhere. Because I'd missed that one I wasn't asked at all the year after."

Waiting tables

That absence of a pantomime in 2004/05 was a low point for Rebecca.

"It was horrible. I had my first year without panto and I thought I was going to love it but it was awful. I didn't know what to do with myself.

"The year I didn't perform I was working in a restaurant because I had to do something. So on Boxing Day, instead of me doing the show, I was waitressing tables in a restaurant in London. It was horrible."

A happy ending

Just twelve months later Rebecca was back in Nottingham and finding more than an appreciative audience. She found a husband.

Rebecca recalled: "That was Jack and the Beanstalk. I arrived at the Playhouse having had two years away and in those years he (Adam McCready) had started working here as a sound man.

Rebecca Little's Pantomime roll-call
1998 - Jack and the Beanstalk (Nottingham Playhouse)
1999 - Mother Goose (Oldham Coliseum)
2000 - Mother Goose (Nottingham Playhouse)
2001 - Dick Whittington (Nottingham Playhouse)
2002 - Beauty and the Beast (Nottingham PLayhouse)
2003 - Dick Whittington (Wakefield Theatre Royal)
2004 - Worked as a waitress
2005 - Jack and the Beanstalk (Nottingham Playhouse)
2006 - Cinderella (Nottingham Playhouse)
2007 - Dick Whittington (Nottingham Playhouse)
2008 - Aladdin (Nottingham Playhouse)
2009 - Beauty and the Beast (Nottingham Playhouse)

"I thought 'he looks nice', but we didn't speak for the first four to five weeks of rehearsals. But when we got into the theatre he had to deliver our microphones. We struck up a little friendship and then just before Christmas we got together and actually got engaged after five days.

"He asked me to marry him and I said yes. We were quite shy but as soon as we got chatting we clicked straight away. Nine and a half months later we got married."

No rest

The Playhouse pantomime takes up three months of Rebecca's schedule every year. However, this year she will be spending even more time in Nottingham.

As soon as Beauty and the Beast ends she begins a run in Forever Young with pantomime co-star John Elkington.

She said: "We start in our last week of panto so we perform in the evenings and the rest of the time in the rehearsal room.

"It'll be nice to do something that isn't panto for a change. It'll be stretching me. It's quite difficult (learning new lines) but I'm quite used to it. Fortunately I've still got a good memory."

After that run she will return to pantomime as she is part of a troupe called Pocket Panto that performs in hospices, day care centres and schools throughout the year.

She will also find time to devote to her own company, Little Pixie, which she runs with her sister Vicky. One production, What Became of the Red Shoes, won Best Family Event at the Buxton Fringe Festival in 2009.

Rebecca Little outside her spiritual home, the Nottingham Playhouse
Rebecca Little has been a regular performer at the Playhouse since 1998

Future dreams

Rebecca hopes she will never lose the pantomime bug and hopes to be still performing in Nottingham in ten years time.

But her ambitions stretch further.

She said: "I would love to continue producing my own work, not just for myself to perform but being able to employ actors to work for me.

"One day I'd love to be able to produce and direct my own pantomime on the same scale as this (Nottingham pantomime). And my biggest dream, if I won the lottery, well I'd love my own little theatre."

For the record, Rebecca's favourite pantomime is Jack and the Beanstalk and the best character she has played is the Fairy in Dick Whittington.

Rebecca Little is appearing as Florence in Beauty and the Beast at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday, 23 January, 2010 after which she will star in Forever Young at the same venue from Thursday 11 - Saturday, 27 February, 2010.

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