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There’s noth­ing like a trip to the panto to re­con­nect you with the fun and tra­di­tions of the fes­tive sea­son. And there are some great pro­duc­tions in our area this win­ter.

Rik Makarem has been prac­tis­ing his laugh. It’s one of the most im­por­tant parts of his role and he wants it to be per­fect . . . men­ac­ing, pow­er­ful and very evil!

Rik is pre­par­ing for a role he ab­so­lutely loves, Abanazar, the wicked bad­die in Aladdin, this year’s The­atre Royal Nor­wich pan­tomime. “He is one of the best panto roles - it’s a li­cence to make bold, char­ac­ter-driven choices,” says Rik, who will be a fa­mil­iar face to fol­low­ers of TV’s Em­merdale and Ca­su­alty. “On a per­sonal level I know that you have to give 150% in panto. The voice is key and es­pe­cially so with the bad­die - you have to play it with such level of en­ergy that the chil­dren com­pletely be­lieve in your abil­ity to be re­ally bad.”

It is clear to see that Rik is rel­ish­ing his role in this year’s panto ex­trav­a­ganza at the The­atre Royal. He will be star­ring op­po­site the Ge­nie, played by 19-year-old Kiera-Ni­cole Bren­nan, a pre­sen­ter on Chan­nel Five’s Milk­shake show, and for­mer Hol­lyoaks and The His­tory Boys star Steve Roberts, who takes the ti­tle role of Aladdin. And it wouldn’t be a Nor­wich panto with­out favourites Richard Gauntlett and Ben Lan­g­ley keep­ing the au­di­ence in stitches.

Rik says it was “an easy de­ci­sion” for him to take on the panto role at Nor­wich af­ter his TV com­mit­ments of re­cent years. “I am quite old fash­ioned and I like tra­di­tional panto done cre­atively with full and colour­ful char­ac­ters,” he says. “For some chil­dren and adults it will be their first the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, so it is im­por­tant for us to en­ter­tain them but also it’s an op­por­tu­nity to tell the panto morals and to en­cour­age them to come back to the the­atre for more and dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences in the fu­ture.”

Rik, who is from Ch­ester­field, says it is his clas­si­cal train­ing that has lured him back to the the­atre, but calls Em­merdale and Ca­su­alty “both life-chang­ing roles that I am very thank­ful for”.

“If you saw the amount of work­man­ship that goes into cre­at­ing both se­ries and all the dif­fer­ent scenes, it is truly amaz­ing and there are plenty of amaz­ing peo­ple in­volved.” Af­ter play­ing Nikhil Sharma in Em­merdale for sev­eral years, he was Dr Se­bas­tian Grayling in Ca­su­alty in 2016. “I was re­ally in there to chal­lenge Dy­lan Keogh, played by Wil­liam Beck who is such a fab­u­lous ac­tor. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence and it was lovely to work with him, it re­ally makes you up your game.” Aladdin is at the Nor­wich The­atre Royal from Wed­nes­day, De­cem­ber 12 to Sun­day, Jan­uary 13. Tick­ets from £10 to £ 24.50, from The­atre Royal, The­atre Street, Nor­wich, NR2 1RL; 01603 630000; the­atreroy­al­nor­wich.co.uk

Rik Makarem as Abanazar in this year’s pro­duc­tion of Aladdin at the The­atre Royal Nor­wich

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