Madeleine McMahon is a regular visitor to Hereford, having performed in six Courtyard pantos and she's back for her seventh this year, playing Queen Octavia in Sleeping Beauty (the first panto she appeared in back in ....).

While still in rehearsals, which started this week, for the panto, Madeleine will be presenting her one woman show, Alto-Holic on Friday, November 17, a show she devised in response to the loss of three women to whom she had been very close and in recognition of a change in her own approach to life.

"My background to getting into acting was singing and I love doing cabaret and singing with bands. About two years ago I realised that I really miss singing and outside panto I don't do much of it any more. Then, about two years ago and in quite quick succession I lost three women who had played a large part in my life and I felt it was time to put something together that felt quite personal. I wanted to celebrate the difficult things as well as the good things.

"I'd always been an alto and when I was younger it used to frustrate me that I didn't have a higher voice like all the big belters. Then as I turned 30 a couple of years ago I calmed down a little and began trying to stop wanting to be other people.

Then my granny died and Jackie Fielding an incredible director I worked with on a one woman show just dropped down dead at the age of 47. "It was the first time I'd done a one-woman show and we spent months in a room together and she had given me all this confidence and empowerment and then she just disappeared. I felt I needed to do something with the feeling she'd left me with and make something, so Alto-Holic was born - it's about 75 minutes of songs and stories.

The third loss that informs the show is that of her childhood best friend Ellie who took her own life "and that's something I wanted to talk about too."

Madeleine has performed the show twice, once for a hospice in Bristol and once for MIND, "and then when I heard about the death of Alex Evans (with whom Madeleine lived during panto season last year) I wanted to do something.

"I'm not good at talking face to face, but I am good at talking through songs and getting people to talk about things."

The space around depression and suicide is one that Madi has found herself in more than once this year, having appeared to rave reviews in a show called A Super Happy Story (about feeling Super Sad). "I was researching it while living with Alex last year," Madeleine recalls. "It's about depression and suicide, but it's a funny, silly musical that talks about something serous and gives people something thoughtful to go away with. We plan to tour it next year.

This year, for a change, Madeleine won't be the baddie in the panto - "It's nicne to come back and do somehting different, to have a new challenge.