The stars of this year’s Horsham pantomime came to The Capitol on Monday (October 9) to promote the theatre’s latest tall tale in full costume.
Jack and the Beanstalk tells the fantastical story of a young village boy’s quest to defeat a cruel giant and save his family.
The production runs from December 8-31 and sees CBBC star Olly Pike in the lead role once again, playing Jack Trott.
The performer is popular with young audiences and has become a familiar face in Horsham’s festive show, having appeared in the pantomime for the past few years.
“This is number four, which is crazy,” says Olly. “My favourite one I’ve done so far is possibly last year’s – Aladdin. They keep getting better each year so hopefully this one will be even better.”
When he’s not performing on stage and screen, Olly works with his company, Pop’n’Olly, which aims to promote LGBT+ equality, diversity and understanding through children’s books and YouTube videos.
The Capitol may seem like a comfortable setting for the hard-working Olly to return to, but that doesn’t mean he can take it easy.
“We do two shows a day and we do it, like, six days a week,” he says, explaining that panto demands consistently energetic performances.
“But it’ll be okay,” he laughs. “I’ll just drink lots of fizzy drinks and eat lots of sweets and I’ll be fine.”
James Fletcher, best known as troubled teenager Dylan in Hollyoaks, will join Olly onstage this year as Jack’s brother, Simple Simon.
He’s eager to play this much more cheerful role.
“I’m looking forward to exercising my funnybone and getting to be silly and muck around,” says James.
“Simple Simon is the jester, the clown, the silly billy, basically the lighthearted relief. Any time the panto may get a little serious, I’ll be there to make sure it’s all laughs again.”
James’ favourite panto routines tend to be ‘slosh scenes’, which can feature pies splatted into faces, fights with washing-up liquid and water pistols squirted into the crowd.
“Anything that makes the audience scream, that’s the most fun,” he says.
Hi-5 presenter Chris Edgerley may provoke a few screams too, but they’ll be of a different kind and accompanied by plenty of boos and hisses.
He plays the giant’s servant Fleshcreep, an arrogant and smarmy baddie who’s out to get Jack.
Chris has played a variety of pantomime roles, including Buttons, Jack, Wishee Washee and Aladdin.
“To go from the good side to the bad side is going to be very exciting,” he says. “It’s going to be much more of a challenge and to have the audience boo me instead of cheer me every time I come on is going to be the polar opposite of what I’m used to.”
Jack may have a formidable foe, but he also has plenty of allies, including the show’s love interest, Princess Apricot.
She’s played by Lauren Osborn who has been a lead vocalist for musician Paul Shapera since 2010 in his New Albion series. She was also lead singer onboard the Sea Princess World Cruise,
Lauren can’t wait to spend December at The Capitol.
“I had a fellow castmate in another show I was doing who’s been in the Horsham panto,” she says. “It just sounds absolutely awesome, so much fun. When I found out I had an audition I was so excited. It’s one of the pantomimes I’ve really been desperate to perform in.”
“At the moment, I have no idea how I’m going to play the character,” she laughs, when asked about her role. “But in the script I was given in my audition, she was quite headstrong and knew what she wanted. She was being a bit naughty, a bit cheeky.”
“I quite enjoy being a little bit funny as well,” Lauren adds. “So hopefully I can include some humour in my character.”
Jack will also get some magical assistance from Fairy Potter.
She’s played by veteran actress Jill Greenacre, who is well known as Linda in The Brittas Empire.
Having only just donned her wings Jill isn’t completely sure what will happen in the show.
“But I know I’m good and I know the theme of me is planting and gardening,” she says.
This is actually Jill’s third time in Jack and the Beanstalk. The first was her first-ever professional acting job where she played the princess in Hastings and the second was playing Jack in Worthing.
This is her first time as the show’s fairy.
“I think it’s a logical progression,” says Jill, who’s delighted to be cast in a production that aims to be so big, upbeat and colourful.
Hywel Dowsell is embracing this vibrant, larger-than-life spirit too, sporting a ridiculous, puffy dress and giant ginger wig as Dame Trott.
“I cannot wait to be at The Capitol this year,” he says. “We’ve got a fantastic cast and Jack and The Beanstalk is one of my favourite pantomimes.”
As Hywel says, there are a few different types of Dames, but one thing they have in common is how mumsy they all are.
That’s how Hywel likes to play the part.
“The audience has to be on your side,” Hywel explains, highlighting the importance of performing the Dame correctly. “She can play great comedy scenes but sometimes moments of pathos as well. She’s the centre of the story.”
Finally, overseeing this chaotic collection of characters is Richard Alan as the fatherly King Crumble.
Like Olly, this will be Richard’s fourth appearance in The Capitol panto.
“It’s like a second home really,” he says. “It’s really nice to be coming back to The Capitol and Horsham and meeting old friends.”
Like Hywel, Richard also thinks that Jack and the Beanstalk is one the best pantomimes to perform.
As he says, there’s an intimidating giant and the anticipation of what he might look like, there’s Daisy the cow and there’s the enchanting moment where the beanstalk begins to grow.
But most importantly, says Richard, there’s that heartwarming family atmosphere.
“I like the fact that it’s for the whole family,” he says. “You get kids really giggling and then you’ve got parents watching their kids giggle.”
“It’s one of those times you can just really let your hair down at Christmas.”
Tickets are £21.50 (concessions £19.50). Group discounts are also available. Call the box office on 01403 750220 or visit www.thecapitolhorsham.com.
Click here to watch our video interviews with the cast.
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