Successful Fylde coast writers Leo Appleton and Rob Fearn share the secret to writing a successful pantomime

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It’s quite an achievement – oh yes it is.

 

Not only is Leo Appleton a familiar face in Fylde amateur panto, but he and writing partner Rob Fearn script their own productions, too – and have won awards for their efforts.

The duo have even had their scripts performed abroad and are already formulating ideas for next year’s production, although the curtain hasn’t long since gone down on their last show and some pantos are still going on.

Leo and Rob have written the panto for the Our Lady Star of the Sea Operatic Society for past 11 years – the most recent Aladdin, staged last month – and have earned many rave reviews for their efforts.

Rob Fearn and Leo Appleton

Rob Fearn and Leo Appleton

“It all stemmed from the quality of writing of the pantos we were doing and we always felt we could do better when we discussed the scripts,” said Leo.

“We both had always wanted to write but needed the impetus which we got from writing together and at first we just enjoyed the process – and still do.

“But then we sent them off to the National Operatic and Dramatic Association and they liked them so much that they took us on in their stable of writers and so now all 13 of them, currently, are licensed to them for hire.

“When we first started writing pantomimes it was always in the January aiming to get it completed by around July ready for our September read through.

Leo Appleton as the villainous Abanazar and Maia Coffey in the title role in the 2021 Our Lady Star of the Sea panto production Aladdin

Leo Appleton as the villainous Abanazar and Maia Coffey in the title role in the 2021 Our Lady Star of the Sea panto production Aladdin

“But now we are a few pantos in hand so we don’t necessarily do that anymore, plus we’ve got better at writing them.

“We do try to be as faithful to the original story as possible. So we do quite a bit of research into older versions to see if there is anything they can give to the story to add a twist or different slant that we can then play with or build on.

“We ensure it’s a good story first and foremost with jeopardy and of course the usual elements – a hero / heroine; behind you gags; occasionally a ghost or animal and perhaps a puppet of some description.

“In all of that though we always keep the essence of the story so the children (and adults) can identify with it.”

It’s not just pantos they write either. The pair have also written a number of plays, a book (not yet published) entitled The Brave Knights, plus the plots for the second two books in the series, poems and also the stage play and lyrics for a musical with friend Frank Harrington which is still a work in progress.

Plus Leo enjoys painting and has recently had a very successful and well received art exhibition.

He also writes church music with Frank which includes a number of new Christmas carols.

The pair won a writing award from NODA Northwest and say they still have plenty of ambition.

“It would be nice to be recognised one day as proper authors and we are still seeking an agent to take on our book The Brave Knights,” said Rob.

“Plus we would also love to see one of our pantomimes or plays staged in a big theatre, just to see what they could do with them.”

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