THERE are few things more life affirming, ludicrous, but above all quintessentially British, as a pantomime.

Dorset-based writer, director and performer, Lee Redwood is bringing Dick Whittington to the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne next month. Lee saw his first pantomime when he was just two years old, and credits this moment to his lifelong love of theatre: “My grandmother took me to see Jack and the Beanstalk at Bournemouth Pavilion. It’s actually my earliest memory, so something must have clicked for me.” With no formal training, Lee has worked his way through the ranks, starting off as a mascot in a theme park at the age of 16 before beginning to produce his own plays and joining forces with friends to create Made to Measure Productions in 2016.

“I love the magic of it all,” he says. “Every day is different, and I love the variety pantomime brings. For a couple of hours, you can just completely escape the real world.”

And he says he is looking forward to returning to the Tivoli Theatre following last year’s record breaking run with Cinderella.

He said: “Although the Tivoli theatre is smaller than its local counterparts in Poole and Bournemouth, our production of Cinderella last year received reviews from audience members rating it higher than other local productions.

“Our sets are from the biggest pantomime supplier in the country. We’re working closely with The Twins FX, an internationally acclaimed local production company based in Wareham who supply visual effects to the London Palladium pantomime, as well as working for the BBC, Britain’s Got Talent and other very high profile clients.

“This year they are providing us with an incredible Flying Motorbike, with Idle Jack in the driving seat, which soars over the heads of the audience with no strings attached…literally.”

Unlike many other theatres in the country, Wimborne doesn’t tend to cast celebrity actors in the leading roles.

“People who were famous a decade ago aren’t usually very good at the job,” Lee says. “In Wimborne, we have a great team who really love what they do. I know people who come down to the town every Christmas just to see the pantomime.”

“The secret of the Tivoli pantomime success is employing quality, professional performers who, although they may not be celebrities, are absolute experts in their field.

“This also allows us to keep the ticket prices down (in fact they’ve been held at the same price for the fourth year in a row at the Tivoli to a manageable level for families at an already expensive time of year.”

When it comes to scriptwriting, Lee says he has only very recently finished the process.

“We always leave it quite late in case something topical comes up that we want to include,” he explains. “This year is more than likely to feature a bit of Brexit and Boris.”

Lee also thinks it’s the returning cast members who make the Tivoli show extra special, describing how they’ve built up “a kind of friendship” with the audience.

The production stars Simon Hollosi as Dick Whittington, Aimi Percival as Fairy Bowbells and Courtney Jackson as Dame Felicity Fitzwarren.

Rehearsals for this finely-tuned production begin on Monday, December 9.

Lee promises that it will all be alright on the night: “It will be an incredible atmosphere from the moment you step into the theatre. You’ll be surrounded by magic.”

Theatre manager Charlie North Lewis added: “I am very happy and excited that Made to Measure are presenting our pantomime. The quality is superb and I was so pleased that we broke records last year.”

* Dick Whittington arrives at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne on Friday, December 20 and runs until Sunday, January 5. For those who can’t get enough of pantomimes, several others are being performed in theatres across the county throughout the festive season:

Aladdin comes to Bournemouth Pavilion from Saturday, December 7 to Sunday, January 5. The production features EastEnders star Richard Blackwood and Amelia Lily from the X Factor, alongside returning favourites Noel Brodie and David Ball.

Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts, will see Jack and the Beanstalk take to the stage from Thursday, December 12 to Sunday, January 5. The show will star former Sugababes singer Amelle Berrabah and Tracy Beaker actor, Connor Byrne. This is the fourth year running that Lighthouse has co-produced its own pantomime with Duncan Reeves Productions, the company headed by Olivier Award-nominated actor and TV presenter Peter Duncan and musical director Darren Reeves. Peter is set to play his first ever panto dame.

Christchurch’s Regent Centre will put on a production of Jack and the Beanstalk from Saturday, January 18 until Saturday, January 25. The award-winning Highcliffe Charity Players will perform the classic tale for the first time in 15 years.