Monday, 14 December 2015

Review 4; Bristol Post

Review: Jack and the Beanstalk at Theatre Royal Bath

Posted: December 13, 2015

Martin Dodd and Theatre Royal, Bath 
presents Jack and the Beanstalk

4/5 by Gerry Parker

BATH Theatre Royal have in recent years built up a tradition of good old fashioned family pantomimes based on a nucleus of experienced Panto players who connect with the audience from the word go.

This year local favourite Jon Monie as Simple Simon and Nick Wilton, in the role of Dame Trott fulfilled those tasks in a skilful manner that made their job look deceptively easy.
The audience knew exactly what to expect from this pair, corny gags, well used Panto routines, and the community song, from which they drew every last ounce of response from an audience that loved every minute of heir work.

The big names brought in to boost public interest often prove to be disappointing because of their inability to deal with a live audience, and lack of commitment to the show, but not on this occasion.
Nigel Havers as Fleshcreep in Jack and The Beanstalk at the Theatre Royal Bath
Nigel Havers displaying all the experience gained in playing leading roles for Royal National and Royal Shakespeare companys, and starring roles in big block buster TV series and films was a splendid Fleshcreep, the giant's villainous assistant. In the best traditions of pantomime this was a character we really did love to hate.
You had the impression that Mr Havers was enjoying the freedom of being allowed to ham it up, but did so with complete control, this was a top quality actor who knew exactly how far to go in search of a laugh without descending into caricature.

Katy Ashworth from CBeebies was equally at home in pantoland producing a loveable Fairy who proved to be a fine advisory for Fleshcreep.
As usual those involved in the romantic content of the story had to be content with the crumbs left over by the laughtermakers, but this did not prevent Sarah Louise Day, Princess Jill, who received admirable support from David Alcock as her father the king, and David Barrett in the role of the Giant killing Jack from making pleasing vocal and dramatic contributions to proceedings.
Brightly staged and colourfully costumed there was plenty to please the eye as well as the ear in this production

Read more:

Review 3: Listomania

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Panto Baddie Gag

They're hissing me down in the stalls!
They're hissing me up in the circle!
Even the band is hissing me in the pit!
I can remember when they didn't have a pit to hiss in.

I've only been a Panto villain once and that was in Bill Oddie and Laura Beaumont's Mother Goose at the Shaw Theatre in London 1991-2
The cast included David Yip as Mother Goose, Nobby the Sheep as Narrator, Julie Dawn Cole (my wife at the time) as a very feisty Jill, and Rob Harley (who I was with in Fast Forward and The Satellite Show on TV) as a somewhat Prince Charlesy Prince.
It was really more of a Christmas show with music rather than a traditional pantomime, although it included a lot of the same elements.
I played Mr Tasty, who ran a multi-national Fast Food company, and who was trying to turn all the animals on Mother Goose's farm into Nuggets and burgers.

The hissing in the pit joke is one of my favourite Panto Baddie gags (although I've never seen it done); it was told to me by Terry Duggan (Anna Karen's husband) when I was doing Dick Whittington with her in Rhyl.
He was a lovely man and was staying with us in the hotel; we had lots of chats over breakfast and he was full of wonderful theatrical stories, gags and routines.
He used to do the gag when he played Panto villain (I hope I've done it justice).

It's wonderful when your job gives you the opportunity to meet and work with such interesting people with hear their stories.

At the time Terry was in a wheelchair and a lot of pain (he was in Rhyl with Anna so she could look after him), but he still had his wonderful sense of humour and I'm so glad to have met him.

Sadly, Terry died in May the following year.

Review 2: StageTalk

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK at Bath Theatre Royal

Jack and the Beanstalk - Sarah Louise Day, Nigel Havers and Jon Monie with Ensemble - Photo credit Anna Barclay

Casting one’s eye over the seasonal theatrical fare, one is struck by the range of offerings brought to market. There is, in the much-used promotional phrase, ‘something for everyone’: new stuff, old stuff, kids’ stuff, family stuff and adult stuff. Moreover much of it compares favorably in price to pints of ale and boxed sets. So there is no excuse for not going out and mixing with a lot of other people, in a nice cosy theatre and having the kind of experience that (a little) money can buy, but which television can never provide.

Furthermore, if one can extrapolate from an Oxford University study published today, showing that early contact with poetry, books, numbers and the like has a lasting beneficial effect on pre-schoolers as they progress through the education system, then we could expect that early contact with live theatre will have a similar effect on, if nothing else, at least their perception that going to the theatre is something ordinary people do. (Of course you and I knew that all along) It’s called, ‘being part of the culture’, as much as going to a football or rugby match on a Saturday afternoon or watching a soap and it’s fun with side benefits.

With this in mind you could argue that it is the duty of pantomimes (and family Christmas shows generally) to be as good as they possibly can so that parents are attracted and children are hooked – for life. Whilst this reviewer hasn’t seen all that is on offer regionally – honours are shared with StageTalk colleagues – what I have seen falls into the category of ‘very good’ or better and Jack and the Beanstalk is no exception.

Panto scripts are often a bit thin on first reading and it is not until the actors and director get their teeth into them that they come alive. The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk fulfill the promise they showed on paper. Nigel Havers, who leads, gives the impression of having far more fun than a working chap has any right to. If you didn’t know it was him, you might think the part of Fleshcreep was being played by a beastly half-brother. In the best panto tradition he relishes being Mr. Nasty whilst staying on the artistic side of ‘hamming it up’, but with enough oleaginous malevolence to provoke spontaneous ‘boos’ and hisses.

Equally at home in the panto style is Nick Wilton as Dame Trott. Mr. Wilton has that welcome ability to make you feel comfortable and that you are in good hands. Not for him a dame as a man in drag, but a broad character, albeit with a dubious taste in men and bright frocks. He has learned the lesson, which generally comes from experience, that you don’t have to deliver every line as if it were a punchline and that a throwaway can sometimes be funnier. His is a dame in the best tradition and it is perhaps no coincidence that some of the funnier moments are his interchanges with Fleshcreep.
Jon Monie and Katy Ashworth are equally experienced and have an easy relationship with the audience as Fairy and Simple Simon – Mr Monie in particular with the young members of the audience who were brought onto the stage when he manages to get a few laughs without anything even their parents could object to. With a couple of bright ‘juve leads’ in Sarah Louise Day and David Barrett and a likeable King in David Alcock the excellent company breathes life into the familiar characters.

This is a pantomime, which delivers in talent and spectacle with colourful sets and exuberant dance numbers to provide a sparkling seasonal treat. With its excellent sister houses in the Egg and Ustinov the Theatre Royal is uniquely placed to follow up on what will be for many young people their first taste of live theatre and on last night’s showing, one they will want to repeat.    

★★★★☆     Graham Wyles     12th December 2015

Review 1: Fine Times Recorder

Jack and the Beanstalk at Bath Theatre Royal

THERE has never been a more fun beanstalk to climb than that on stage at Bath’s Theatre Royal this Christmas.
The show is full of energy and colour, song and dance, incorporating all the vital elements of a traditional pantomime but at the same time mixing in enough topical and local jokes and and recent pop to delight all sections of the audience.

pantojack10Jack and the Beanstalk - Nigel Havers as Fleshcreep - (1) - Photo credit Anna Barclay
Most of the women in the audience were swooning not only at the muscles of the principal boy but a  Fleshcreep of extraordinary charm and beauty, in spite of some very green makeup and lighting. If you cast Nigel Havers as your baddie, you must expect a certain confusion of reaction!

Jack and the Beanstalk, on stage in Bath until Sunday 10th January, really is a terrific pantomime, with spectacular sets and costumes to match scintillating performances.
The very loud echoing sound of Giant Blunderbore is enough to send a scary frisson around the auditorium, but with a Forest Fairy in the form of Kathy Ashworth of CBBs fame, it’s all going to turn out fine in the end.

A Bath panto wouldn’t be the same without Jon Monie, and he’s on fine form as Simple Simon, a role in which he can make the most of his rubber face.  He is teamed with the “new” dame, Nick Wilton, who steps into the huge shoes of Chris Harris with disarming pizzazz and poignancy – and very deep loud voice when required!

pantojack9Jack and the Beanstalk - Nick Wilton as Dame Trott - Photo credit Anna Barclay

David Barrett is a hunky and self deprecating hero, fighting for the love of his princess (Sarah Louise Day who is also in charge of the excellent choreography). And David Alcock makes the king a much more memorable character than usual.

pantojack8Jack and the Beanstalk - Katy Ashworth with dancers from Dorothy Coleborn School - Photo credit Anna Barclay 
Children from the local dance school are a must in pantomime today, and the students of the Dorothy Coleborn School are a joy, entering into the show with gusto.

If the script is a bit laboured at times, don’t worry …  Havers, Monie and Wilton are on hand to add their own touches of spontaneous fun.

pantojack13Jack and the Beanstalk - Sarah Louise Day David Barrett and Jon Monie with Ensemble - Photo credit Anna Barclay

If the Theatre Royal is the prettiest theatre in the country, this is certainly a pantomime to match, from the lush greenness of the beanstalk to the stunning wedding that ends the show. Highly recommended for all the family.

Photographs by Anna Barclay

Friday, 11 December 2015

Charity Christmas Cards

Bath's panto Dame champions local good causes

By LJGillespie  December 05, 2015
Bath's panto Dame has championed the work of a special festive pop-up shop.
Dame Trott from the Theatre Royal's pantomime has visited the Bath's Cards for Good Causes pop-up charity shop at St Michael's Without Church on Broad Street.

Cards for Good Causes has been selling cards in Bath for nearly 50 years, and for more than 40 years a pop-up shop has been created in St Michael's Without.

Staffed by manager Tony Green and a loyal group of more than 60 volunteers, the shop can be easily spotted by looking out for the Cards for Good Causes distinctive triangular red Santa sign on Broad Street.
Cards for Good Causes is the UK's largest multi-charity Christmas card organisation and the Broad Street shop is the second largest in their nationwide network of shops – a testament to the support shown for the organisation by the people of Bath.
As well as the many national charities supported by card sales at St Michael's Without, three local Bath charities are also represented: Dorothy House Hospice Care, Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) at the RUH, and Julian House.The shop stocks over 300 different designs, including cards featuring local scenes of Bath.
Award-winning actor Nick Wilton, who is staring as the Dame in this year's Theatre Royal pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk, popped by the shop to meet with its volunteers.
Nick is known for his stage and television roles including playing Market Inspector Mr Lister in EastEnders for six years, as well as performing in Carrot's Lib, The Bill, Holby City, and many children's programmes.
He said: "I salute the team of volunteers who give their time to run Bath's Cards for Good Causes. Their hard work, and the support of everyone who has bought from the pop-up shop at St. Michael's Without, will help to benefit 39 deserving charities.
"If you haven't paid a visit yet there's still time to go, the shop is open until 16th December and has a wonderful range of cards to choose from."
The Cards for Good Causes pop-up shop at St Michael's Church, Broad Street, is open Monday to Saturday between 9.30am and 5pm until Wednesday, December 16.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Bradford on Avon Christmas Lights

Had a great time switching on the Christmas Lights at Bradford-on-Avon on 
Friday night.

Lovely to meet the Mayor and the winners of the Christmas Lights Poster competition.

Wiltshire Times
Christmas countdown begins with lights switch on in Bradford on Avon
Richard Mills, Bradford on Avon reporter /  / News

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Fine Times Recorder: Article

8th November 2015  
A charmer to chill and a dame to delight

When I told friends that I was going to meet Nigel Havers, the reaction was a universal sigh of envy. He is the embodiment of boyish good looks and irresistible charm,with a voice like fine wine and a CV that ranges from Oscar-winning films to Oscar Wilde on stage.
But this Christmas he will be donning the hideous make-up and swirling the slime-coloured cloak as the demon Fleshcreep in Bath Theatre Royal’s Jack and the Beanstalk. 
And he will be in his element “I always do villains,” he says, “because they are the best parts. I have a ball doing it. It is hard work but I enjoy it. I like scaring the kids!”

interviewpantoDemonNot all big stars do pantomime. Nigel says actors either love it or hate it and he loves it. He was taken as a child and has never lost a taste for this peculiarly English theatrical tradition.His panto villains have included Fleshcreep (which he last played at Southampton in 2013), the Sheriff of Nottingham, the wizard Abanazer in Aladdin and, perhaps his favourite, Captain Hook in Peter Pan. Nigel Havers has had a long and distinguished career  on the cinema and television screens, with roles that have ranged from the elegant Lord Andrew Lindsay hurdling to Olympic silver in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire through television hits including Upstairs Downstairs, The Charmer, Don’t Wait Up, The Glittering Prizes, A Horseman Riding By, and more than 150 episodes of Coronation Street as the charming conman Lewis Archer, to a guest role in Downton Abbey.
On stage he has played Serge in Yasmina Reza‘s Art, Maxim de Winter in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt in Alan Bennett’s Single Spies, the celebrity guest star in The Play What I wrote, and he is currently on tour playing Algernon in a gloriously funny production of The Importance of Being Earnest, in which his co-stars include Sian Phillips as Lady Bracknell and his old chum Martin Jarvis as Ernest. The two originally played the same parts some 30 years ago at the National Theatre and had long planned to reprise their roles in a stylish “mature” production of the Oscar Wilde classic.

Standing up to the evil machismo of the demon Fleshcreep will be the feisty and colourful Dame Trott, mother of our hero Jack and his accident-prone brother Simple Simon, played by Bath favourite Jon Monie,. Jon had a long and successful festive season partnership with the late great Chris Harris, who played the dame in so many Bath pantomimes.

interviewJackdameNick Wilton, who plays Dame Trott, made his pantomime debut at Plymouth with Chris Harris, in 1987 and he cites Chris as his inspiration for playing the dame as a lovable clown character rather than a glamorous or Ugly Sisters style dame. His first dame was at Salisbury Playhouse, when he played Nurse Nelly in Robin Hood & The Babes in the Wood.
Away from pantomime, Nick describes himself as a “Jack of all trades” playing in many Ray Cooney farces and a wide range of roles from Ali Hakim in Oklahoma to Rosencrantz in Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, from Samuel Pepys to Sir Percy in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus.
He has been in many television programmes including EastEnders, Doc Martin, Casualty, Heartbeat, Carrott’s Lib and many children’s shows.

Nigel and Nick have never played together before but both are looking forward to bringing this classic panto story to life for children and friends and family this Christmas in Bath.
The panto also stars Katy Ashworth from CBeebies as the Forest Fairy. Katy is an accomplished singer, actress and storyteller and also writes and illustrates stories for children.

Jack and the Beanstalk is at Bath Theatre Royal from 10th December to 10th January.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Guide 2 Bath Interview

Thanks Vivienne for making sense of my ramblings...  

Vivienne Kennedy interviews Nick Wilton who will be starring as Dame Trott in Jack and the Beanstalk at Theatre Royal Bath this Christmas.

In a few weeks time CBeebies presenter 
Katy Ashworth and professional charmer Nigel Havers will be making their way to Bath where they will star in the Theatre Royal’s pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. 
They will be joined by panto favourite 
Jon Monie, who this year plays Simple Simon, and by Nick Wilton, who will be donning frocks and heels as Dame Trott. 
Recently I caught up with Nick during a press call at Bailbrook House Hotel for a chat about life as a pantomime dame.

You’re no stranger to the frocks and heels of a pantomime dame, having been playing the role since the turn of the century, which sounds so long ago...
Yes, such a shame I didn’t start a year earlier, so that I could have seen the new millennium in really, but I couldn’t get a “Dame” before that.
It took about three years to get one. I decided when I was 40 that I wanted to do it. I’d done a couple of pantomimes playing the comic when I was younger and doing kids telly, I did one in 1987 and the other in 1991, then in 2000, having seen a few programmes about Dames... I always like those TV programmes about “the business”...I thought “ooh, that really ties in with what I do”; I was doing lots of comedy sketches at the time. It seemed like a role that would really allow me to do all the things I like doing.
I started asking people if I they’d let me be Dame but I couldn’t find anyone, they all wanted someone who’d done it before. I was in Salisbury doing the farce See How They Run, asked there, and they said yes, I could do it. That was Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, in Salisbury, in 2000.

Has it been every year since or have you had some breaks?
Yes, every year since.

Is this your first time in Bath?
No, I’ve been to Bath a couple of times. I think the first time was in 1988 when I was in a farce with Brian Rix, Dry Rot, and then I think I’ve done a couple of other plays since – I was here as Samuel Pepys in a wig and there was something else, but I can’t remember what it was...another farce probably, Run For Your Wife.
This is my first Bath pantomime though because of course Chris Harris was always here...

Big footsteps to follow in...
Indeed. I did do my first pantomime with Chris though, so he has been my inspiration. I loved his clowning. I’m not a clown like him but we do have a similar style, very much a man in a dress.

Have you seen this year’s dresses?
They’re all mine. I’ve built up quite a wardrobe over the years.
There is one more I might buy; I’m going up to London on Tuesday to have a look at a possible finale costume. 
It’s easier in a way. When I started they were made for me, but as I’ve started working with different producers they do expect you to have a few of your own and the collection’s just built up over the years. I suppose I’ve got 15 or 16 now and I use about 10 in each show.
I tend to use the same 10 to be honest and I haven’t got any Aladdin ones...if I get in to Aladdin anywhere I have to beg, steal or borrow because I haven’t got anything Chinese themed, but I can normally get away with that.

Do you have a favourite?
There’s a very nice daisy one, which I got online from a person that I then found out runs the Music Hall Guild of Great Britain, which restores the graves of all the old stars. They just got Dan Leno’s, who was one of the great Dames; they’ve got the responsibility for looking after his grave...anyway, for some reason, this man made costumes too and this particular one is a short little dress with a Bo Peep hat.  I probably will be wearing that. It normally gets a laugh.

The Dame is quite a full on role...quite physical...10 costume changes alone are going to be quite tiring...
Yes, you’re either on stage or changing. Sometimes I think I quite like the beginning of the pantomime, because you do come on quite late, normally 10 or 15 or even 20 minutes into the show, but after that, yes, it’s full on.
The Dame didn’t used to have so many costume changes but it’s gradually become part of the tradition.
My costumes are very much character costumes, they’re not gags in their own know what I mean? I don’t come on dressed as an ice-cream cone or a box of fries.

How do you prepare? Do you have a fitness regime that you follow through the year?
Not really. Considering the size and shape I am, I’ve got quite a lot of energy!
I am trying to do a bit of cycling at the moment. If I’m at home and I need to go to the shops, I go by bike, and one of them’s up quite a big hill!

What are you looking forward to about spending Christmas in Bath?
Oh, just being here, I love Bath.
I found a nice place to have coffee, just near the theatre, yesterday, so I was pleased about that.
I haven’t been here for a few years, so it has changed a lot. It’s lovely though, it always has a nice ambience, and I do love the Pump Rooms. My wife’s coming down with me so I’m sure we will have a tea at some point. It's such a nice city to walk around.

When it comes to January will it be a relief to lose the heels, or will you miss them?
It normally is. Although I love doing it, it’s quite nice when January comes. We normally go on holiday, somewhere hot. I always figure we’ve earned it. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me this afternoon and I hope you have a lot of fun during your stay in Bath and enjoy your holiday afterwards.

 Jack and the Beanstalk opens with an evening performance on Thursday 10 December and runs until Sunday 10 January. 
There are no shows on Monday 14 and Friday 18 December and the cast are also given Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off. 
For the rest of the run there will be two performances each day, with the exception of New Year’s Eve when there is only a matinee.
For further information, including ticket prices, and to book online, visit

Bath 2015 Panto Launch

Photos from Jack & the Beanstalk panto launch at Bailbrook House Hotel



Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Jack & The Beanstalk, Bath

This year, my 8th season with UK Productions, marks my 16th consecutive Christmas playing Dame, and I'm really excited to be playing The Theatre Royal, Bath;
though it is slightly daunting to be stepping into the boots of Chris Harris,
who directed and played Dame there for so many years.
Chris was my inspiration to play Dame; I was was Captain's Mate with him in my first panto,
Dick Whittington, at The Theatre Royal Plymouth, way back in 1987
(starring Anita Harris, Bernard Cribbins, Andrew Sachs and Glyn Owen).
It was such fun doing classic routines with Chris and Bernard - especially A Little Bit of Heaven, and an acrobatic act with Chris on invisible flying wires - I learnt so much from them both.
I'm also looking forward to being back with some old friends: lovely Sarah Day (Princess Jill),
who I last worked with in Sleeping Beauty at The Anvil in Basingstoke in 2010 - she's choreographing the show too, which is great, because she's very, very patient;
 the delightful David Alcock (playing King) - we were both in Jack & The Beanstalk
in New Brighton a couple of years ago; 
David Barrett (Jack), who I was with in Aladdin in Malvern in 2008 - Great voice!
and Director, Michael Gattrell, who I've known for years but never actually worked with.
 And if that wasn't enough there's  there's all the new friends to make!
Jon Monie, who I've seen in previous Bath Pantos - Really funny!
the irrepressible Katy Ashworth; and, of course,
Nigel Havers (who I'm really looking forward to flirting with!)