The family bringing panto to Spalding

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Young Ally Milne has played every panto role but this year has the one she always wanted.

When she takes to the stage in Hurst Children’s Theatre Group’s panto in Spalding, Ally will finally get to play the Dame.

Joining her on stage at the South Holland Centre in Dick Whittington will be King Rat, played for the second time by Ben Rudman.

Ben’s wife Bryony Hurst, who directs and produces the shows, says: “This year’s panto is the one we started with eight years ago, so we have come full circle.”

The show is very much a family concern, with 13-year-old daughter Maddy playing a fairy – 11-year-old son Gabriel’s interests have switched to rugby and 21-year-old daughter Polly also used to perform on stage.

The family connections don’t end there though because Bryony’s father Mike Hurst writes the scripts – he has introduced a cookery theme to this year’s, so the dame is Damie Oliver.

In fact Bryony comes from a theatrical family dynasty, one started by Mike’s mother in the late 1960s.

Bryony is one of six siblings and says she was on the stage from the age of four, as were they all.

Two other siblings went on to run Hurst Children’s Theatre groups. One is the original one in Henley-on-Thames begun by Bryony’s grandmother and then run by Mike, who had already enjoyed a career as a musician. He was an original member of the top British vocal group, The Springfields, before becoming a successful record producer.

In 2009 the family made it into the Guinness World Records book for the biggest number of family members on stage in a production.

That was when Ben made his debut performance and was so good he was snapped up as a regular actor for Bryony’s shows.

Bryony had set up her theatre group in Bourne the year before and says around 50 children still meet every Saturday in term time, including Ally, who has been there from the start, and possibly Kiera Wilde.

Bryony says: “I find in Bourne I am incredibly lucky with parents and families. They are very supportive and encouraging.”