There can't be too many artistic directors who have had the opportunity to dip their theatrical toes into a place than Ryan McBryde has.

When the board appointed Ryan to the new creative director's post earlier this year, they already knew what they were getting having seen his highly acclaimed productions of Pieces of String and Moll Flanders.

Of course there was the little tricky matter of directing that very fickle of theatre beasts, the Mercury pantomime, but Cinderella has proved he can smash that out of the park as well and impressively in a new venue under the Abbey Field Big Top tent.

"Within a week of starting," he grins, "the theatre closed down. There can't be many creative directors who can lay claim to that or would want to perhaps," he laughs, "but it was actually a really good thing for me. A kind of reset, allowed me to get my head around the job in hand. Funnily enough I had already been employed to direct Oliver! and the pantomime in the tent so I was going to be here anyway."

Now having moved his family from London to Colchester, Ryan is keen to get started on putting his own mark on the next era of the Mercury in a new multi-functional building following its 9.7million extension and refurbishment, which is already taking shape.

Ryan says: "I always joked that I'd like to run the National Theatre by the time I was 30 but in all seriousness I never thought about running a theatre up until now. I've been more than happy being a freelance director and I thought that's what I would remain doing, at least for the foreseeable future.

"Then of course when this job came up, and people were saying I should definitely go for it, I suddenly thought may be I should.

"What I wasn't prepared for was the terrifying interview process. As a freelance director you generally get people asking you to do jobs so this was a completely new experience for me. It was like being back at Uni."

Born and brought up in Leeds, before moving to a small town outside Newcastle when he was eight, Ryan’s interest in theatre began ‘with school pantos and a bit of Shakespeare’.

After graduating from Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, Ryan started working on the London Fringe.

“I did what most people did,” he adds, “which was move to London, sleep on people’s floors and try and get work.

“I did a lot of Fringe, then got an assistant job at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, where I stayed for ten years and directed my first show.

“When I left school, Ryan says, “I ended up at agricultural college, spending my first year learning how to castrate a pig, among other things, so it’s a wonder I’m in the arts at all.”

Thank goodness he is because having seen all of his shows at the Mercury so far, he's a pretty exciting prospect for the town and the theatre.

Not that he's in for an easy ride.

"One of the fascinating things I've discovered already," he tells me, "was that it's around 64 per cent attendance for a play, 75 per cent for a musical and 94 per cent for the pantomime, and so I was asking myself how can we tap into the success rate we have at panto and take that all year round.

"I think it's about building up that trust with your audience and so I've been asking a lot of people, especially taxi drivers. Before I moved here I was getting a lot of cabs from the station and every time I asked them what would bring them into the theatre.

"I understand times are tough for people. There's not a lot of spare cash around and so if they're going to spend their money on a show, they want to be sure it's going to be good, they don't want to take a risk on something they might not enjoy. That's my job, to make sure they know when they come to the theatre it's going to be incredible."

Judging by the audiences reaction to this year's pantomime, and of course his previous shows, he's certainly doing that.

"I've got a vested interest in this place now," he says. "I'd already fallen in love with the town. People actually say 'hello' to you in the street but I also loved the cafes, the Castle, and of course all of the staff at the Mercury itself, who have always been so welcoming and lovely.

"But then I had to convince my wife and son it was the right move. Fortunately we found a lovely house we all adore and a great local school for my son, and we've been exploring, out to Dedham, Wivenhoe, and we've got Mersea on our list. It's just so beautiful around here, we're really settling in rather well."

After pantomime, Ryan is then setting himself the task of the much anticipated building re-launch in which he already has grand plans but more on that later.

"Pantomime is such an all encompassing thing," he smiles. "This is my fifth panto having done a run at Salisbury and I even assisted Stephen Fry when he did his panto at the Old Vic but I've never done one in a tent before so that was quite an experience. We've certainly pulled out all the stops and with this year's theme being bringing a little bit of magic to the town, I'm really pleased with what we've done."

Here's hoping Ryan's magic touch continues for many years to come.

Cinderella runs at the Mercury at Abbey Field, Circular Road East, until January 5 at various times. For ticket prices, or to book, call 01206 573948.