EastEnders’ Max Branning flees Lucy Beale murder trial to appear in St Albans pantomime

The stars of this years panto in St Albans, Peter Pan

The stars of this years panto in St Albans, Peter Pan - Credit: Archant

The cast of Peter Pan are counting down the croc in anticipation for the UK’s ‘best’ panto.

The likes of Jake Wood (Max Branning in EastEnders) and Katrina Bryan of CBeebies fame, alongside firm St Albans favourite Bob Golding, will be taking centre stage at the Alban Arena this festive season.

The play has been written and produced by top panto duo Paul Hendy and Emily Wood, who were responsible for last year’s hit Jack and the Beanstalk, which starred other EastEnders favourite Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell).

But had his fellow Albert Square regular given any advice to his co-star for his first ever panto? Jake, who will be playing Captain Hook, said: “No, but he was just really positive about the whole experience really. He had not a bad word to say about St Albans and highly recommended it.”

As a Hertfordshire resident and father of two, Jake said that St Albans was the natural choice for his first panto: “I’ve heard wonderful things about the pantomimes of St Albans and it’s important that I’m close to home, we only get Christmas Day off so it’s important I can still spend time with my family.

“It’ll be fun to do something different. I think it will be quite challenging to do panto, you’ve got to serve both characters, you’re partially Captain Hook but you’re partially Max from EastEnders, and Jake from Strictly as well, so hopefully I’ll be ticking all those boxes and doing a bit of dancing as well.”

Rehearsals start in November and the cast will have just 10 days to turn the play around.

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Jake, who has taken a year off from EastEnders, was this week seen fleeing justice after being found guilty of the murder of Lucy Beale, said: “They don’t muck about, but I’m used to EastEnders where we usually don’t get any rehearsals.”

Local actor Bob Golding, who plays Mr Smee, has been starring in St Albans pantos for the past five years, after being convinced to try the genre again by panto writer and producer Paul Hendy following a bad experience 20 years ago.

He said: “Paul Hendy writes a great panto in that it’s got all the songs, music, great sets, some lovely comedy and silliness, but it’s also got a little glint in the eye that flies over the heads of the kids and firmly in the lap of the adults. I’m really proud to be part of their team.

“This is year five for me and I love it largely because we’re bringing really great quality pantos. Last year we nearly sold out and I’m pretty sure this year we will because I think arguably this is the best panto in the country.”

Panto pro, Katrina Bryan, known to most as Nina from Nina and the Neurons, will be swapping Scotland for St Albans for six weeks to play Tinkerbell after starring in more than eight pantomimes.

She said: “I’ve always loved doing pantos because with the CBeebies show, which I love very much, I’m on my own in it, I’m the only adult in it, so I love being in a cast of people it’s the most fun in the world.

“I’ve just met these guys and they’re hilarious so I can’t wait to start rehearsing.

“I can’t wait to be a St Albans resident.

“It’s the perfect town for me, because I’m from Edinburgh I love a historic town and also Edinburgh is such a small city so I love that St Albans is compact with lovely shops.”

Tickets for Peter Pan are already on sale and available from the Alban Arena’s website: www.alban-arena.co.uk/events/peter-pan/