Tom got his first professional pantomime job at the age of 15, in the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall Theatre’s production of Peter Pan, where he played the crocodile. From there he went on to become the inquisitive and adventurous performer/ producer/ writer/ director and designer he has become.
Having realised that theatrics were to be Tom’s path, he decided to learn every aspect of production and got himself a job as a crew member at that same Tunbridge Wells theatre. He worked on various large-scale tours and learned how all the other elements of theatre worked.
He then went on to work at the London Dungeon - where he discovered that scaring people is really fun and something he would come back to later in his career.
With this well-rounded knowledge of theatre and the workings of a public attraction, he went on the become the entertainment manager for the Hop Farm family park - there he honed his writing and directing skills. Here he was able to create shows from scratch - write them, build the sets, design and commission the costumes, create the technical aspects of the shows, direct cast members, manage the front of house activities - the list goes on. At the Hop Farm Tom also learnt how to budget and facilitate bigger scale projects. He opened a barrel ride for kids, he re- themed a busy children’s ‘driving school’ and, most impressively, completely restored and converted a barn into a fully functioning, purpose-built family theatre, complete with theming throughout.
Tom then moved onto manage the entertainment at Groombridge Place, another popular attraction. Here he created puppet shows for children and a while mix of different activities.
While making these child friendly shows and events, Tom never forgot the joy and talent for terrifying people he picked up at the London Dungeon. He created an award winning large-scale horror festival called Freak Week and within this festival sat the first ever ‘crawling horror maze’ designed entirely by Tom.
He went on to design a few other horrific Halloween attractions, including Pitch Black - a dark maze navigated only with a glow stick. And Porky’s Fear Factory- another traumatising walk through experience which won further awards from the scream industry.
Deciding to take things to a more immersive place- Tom produced and designed an overnight horror experience - Extreme Sleepover - it was as horrendous as it sounds - people loved it.
Most recently, Tom was employed to co-produce Screamland at Margate’s iconic Dreamland theme park.
Immersive theatrical theatre has taken off in a big way - in particular ‘escape games’. Tom co-created ‘Clue Cracker’ a new style of escape room, at Dreamland in sunny Margate.
At some point during all of this he opened the UK’s first magic and wizarding school for kids at the Woodville in Gravesend.
Toms love for magic and trickery led him into producing live magic and mind-reading theatrical shows, which in turn led him into co-designing a trick which was used to fool Penn and Teller in the ITV show Fool Us. This trick is now on sale internationally along with another of Tom’s magical creations - All Aboard.
Throughout all of these escapades- Tom has been developing and growing his theatrical company, Wicked Productions. Established in 2011, Wicked have been producing professional pantomimes and Easter family tours ever since.
Having just acquired their 3rd Christmas venue, Tom is responsible for overseeing and producing every aspect of these popular productions. He is the writer, the producer, the set designer and the director! You can find Wicked Productions on Facebook- there you’ll see an extensive CV of shows and tours. You’ll also be able to keep an eye on what is coming up next from this exciting and fresh family friendly company.
If you’ve made it to the end of this bio, congratulations!
Ant Payne has been performing in family shows and pantomimes for over 20 years, since he was 14 years old. After presenting a late-night cookery TV show called Get Stuffed and a children’s craft show on channel four called Blast Off, he went on to co-host a morning breakfast radio show on the Capital Radio network in Kent and the
South East on Invicta FM.
This year sees the release of the first feature film he has appeared in called The Fitzroy which has won awards at movie festivals around the world already and a tour of his own show where he appears as his comedy alter ego, Silly Billy.