It is becoming a well-established tradition in Kingston for the Rose Theatre’s winter production to defy the usual seasonal clichés.

You won’t find any Pantomime dames, “he’s behind yous” and “Oh no it isn’ts” at the High Street venue this year.

Instead, prepare to be transported to 1930s Spain, for a story about a circus, an orphan and a fearsomely gorilla named Gor.

The highly-anticipated Snow Gorilla opens at the Rose on Friday, November 29, and actress Joanne Heywood, who plays circus ringleader Fanny Marigny, took time out of rehearsals to talk to the Surrey Comet.

Your Local Guardian:

Joanne Heywood rehearsing with Nicholas Maude, who plays Erick

It will be the first time the York-born actress has appeared at the Rose, and she said: “I’ve had a look and it seems the perfect setting for this production.

“At the moment we’re still in the rehearsal room, but you get that buzz when you get into the theatre and get on stage. “Because it’s a brand new production everything is being made from scratch.

“We’ve got some fabulous people arranging the music and we’ve got the full band here, which wouldn’t normally happen until the dress rehearsals..”

The Snow Gorilla is ostensibly a love story about an orphan named Sunny [Ciaran Joyce, pictured right] and Chloe [Lucy Hope-Borne], the daughter of Joanne’s character.

Many key details behind the Snow Gorilla are being kept under wraps – largely because producers want to surprise audiences with Gor’s entrance.

Your Local Guardian:

Rehearsals for the Snow Gorilla move to the Rose Theatre next week

“It’s my circus, it’s been my family’s circus for generations, but it’s not been going so well recently,” said Joanne.

“The circus takes in waifs and strays, and an orphan comes to the circus and falls in love with my daughter.

“But money goes missing from the circus and Sunny gets accused of taking it. He has to prove his innocence and that’s where we discover the secret of the circus.

“That’s where all the magic happens and we get the happy ending - there won’t be a dry eye in the house.”

Much of the production behind the Snow Gorilla has been shrouded in secrecy, mainly because the producers want to keep the appearance of Gor a surprise.

Joanne said it will be worth the wait.

“I think everybody will be suitable impressed,” she said. “When I auditioned for the show I had no idea what the gorilla was going to look like. But I was amazed when I first saw it. That’s down to the skill of the maker [Max Humphries] and the actor inside [Dominic Leeder].

“When he beats his chest and runs at you get out of the way.”

The Snow Gorilla, Rose Theatre, High Street, Kingston, Friday

November 29 – Sunday, January 5, £9 - £28

visit website or call 08444 821556.