Oh boy! Pantomime Dame is ready for a new role as a dad

Mathew Walker, who is playing Widow Twanky, and members of the cast of Aladdin for Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company
Mathew Walker, who is playing Widow Twanky, and members of the cast of Aladdin for Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company
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Pantomime Dame Mathew Walker is looking 
forward to a new role, as a dad.

His baby boy is due any day now, and Mathew and partner Hayley are hoping he doesn’t arrive too late. If he waits a couple of weeks, his first view of his dad could be in a frock, wig and full make-up.

Mathew is playing Widow Twanky in Aladdin for Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company at The Montgomery theatre in Sheffield city centre later this month.

Mum-to-be Hayley Wilbourne is the show’s choreographer and hasn’t let her pregnancy stop her take charge of the dance scenes. She is planning to be helping out backstage while the show is on, with the babe in arms.

The father-to-be admitted: “It’s not ideal timing! At least we’ve not had the baby to deal with during rehearsals. Hopefully he will sleep all the way through show week.

“I haven’t thought about pulling out of the show. It hasn’t been too bad at all.

“When we found the baby was due on January 8, it was a bit of a shock but it’s not worked out too badly at all.

“Maybe I’ll get a bit of paternity leave on pantomime week.”

He added: “Hayley has said she hopes she isn’t overdue, she doesn’t think the first vision our son wants of his dad is me in a frock!”

There will be plenty of family on hand backstage to help Hayley and Mathew cope with the new arrival.

Mathew’s mum Bev is ticket secretary, his dad Scott Walker is musical director and his brother Joseph is playing the 
lead role of Aladdin, who is 
of course Widow Twanky’s son.

Mathew’s stepdaughter Olivia is one of the children’s chorus.

The joke among the cast is that it will confuse the new baby no end to see his dad as the Dame and his uncle calling his dad ‘mum’, if you can follow that!

Mathew has appeared in lots of pantomimes for the company in the past, coming back last year after a long break of eight or nine years.

He said: “It was only last year that the gentleman who normally plays the Dame wasn’t at rehearsal. I was asked, would you mind reading in and then got asked to audition for the part.

“Last year was the first time I played the Dame.

“It’s absolutely one of the best parts in panto. You get carte blanche to do what you want, you can stray away from the script.

“It’s quite liberating putting on a frock! But it’s certainly not a female impersonation.

“I’m quite youngish and quite slender, so I’m not the typical Dame. It’s not like being Danny La Rue, the Dame is certainly a bloke in a frock.”

Hallam and Handsworth is an amalgamation of two city amateur dramatic companies.

Mathew said that Handsworth Operatic Society was set up by his grandparents in the 1940s as part of a Handsworth community organisation.

He added: “My dad and my uncle got into it. My dad often wrote it and was musical director.

“My uncle has directed all our summer productions for the last five or six years.

“My mother met my father through doing shows at Handsworth and I met Hayley through it.”

His grandfather, Geoff Walker, died last year and his grandmother Jean is the company’s president.

As soon as Aladdin is over, the company will be thinking about their next show, The King and I, in the summer.

Aladdin runs at The Montgomery in Surrey Street from January 22-25 at 7.30pm nightly, plus a Saturday matinee at 2.15pm.

For tickets, call 07586 293546.