You’ll be Hook-ed!
The stars of Peter Pan, this year’s Christmas panto at the Theatre Royal, took time out from rehearsals to tell us all about it
It is that time of year again, oh yes it is, when we start thinking about the Christmas panto at the Theatre Royal. The dust has just settled on the ghouls of Halloween and the embers from bonfire night and fireworks are still smouldering but already we are getting ready for Christmas and in Bath that means it must be time to book tickets for the annual pantomime. This year it is the children’s favourite Peter Pan starring veteran actor Paul Nicholas and our very own dearly loved comic Jon Monie, as well as Casualty’s Rebecca Wheatley and musical talent Tim Edwards. Stars of the cast gathered in the grounds of Bailbrook House Hotel in Bath for the launch of this year’s panto and it was a very colourful affair. Swashbuckling pirates with long curly wigs, swords and other weapons frolicked on the grass in mock battle for what looks set to be a real fun pantomime for 2018. Between battles Paul Nicholas, well known for his vintage TV role in Just Good Friends in the ‘70’s and more recently in the reality television series The Real Marigold Hotel, is playing Captain Hook. He was in fine form at the launch and is buzzing about coming to Bath for the long-running panto. He said: “Bath is a wonderful city, every actor wants to come here, it is a beautiful town and the Theatre Royal is a very special place. “I played here for Quartet this year and the audiences were absolutely brilliant, I am really looking forward to coming back and spending some real quality time here in the city,” he said. As well as his many TV performances over the years, the actor who will be 74 in December, is a highly experienced stage and musical performer having starred in many award-winning productions in the West End and elsewhere, and he will bring a wide range of experience to the stage of the Theatre Royal. He said: “I have never played in Bath at Christmas time, it must be purely magical, I feel very lucky. “I like playing Captain Hook, he is not too sinister or dark for a baddie so I think the children will really warm to him, I hope so anyway,” he said. Rebecca Wheatley, best known for her role in the BBC drama Casualty, will star as Mrs Darling and she was also in Bath for the launch. She said: “Peter Pan is a great panto, it is a proper good story with a real plot and lots and lots of action. “I have to play the part of Mrs Darling and also a mermaid so it
will be a lot of fun with lots of costume changes,” she said. Also known for her appearances in Loose Women and Holby City, Rebecca has sung and appeared in West End productions including Fame and Bad Girls: The Musical. She is also excited about coming to Bath. She said: “I know Bath very well as I spent a lot of time here as a child as my mother lived near Wells. “I also lived in Bristol while filming Casualty so I have very fond memories of the West Country, I just love this part of the world, coming back is really lovely. “I am looking forward to spending time in the city and my family will be visiting and coming to the show so we will go for nice meals in some of the great restaurants. “Panto is really great fun and Peter Pan is one of the best so I am really looking forward to it,” she said. Bath’s own Jon Monie is returning as Smee, Captain Hook’s right hand man and during the run he will be making his 1,000th appearance in the Theatre Royal Bath panto. He said: “I started in 1996, I wrote to the theatre to ask them if I could take part in the panto and that was it, the rest is history, it is now part of my Christmas and a very important part. I just love it, this will be my 13th consecutive year in the Theatre Royal panto and it just gets better and better. “There is something really special about the Theatre Royal and it is a real privilege to be taking part,” he said. Jon is one of Bath’s favourite home spun comics, he works on the panto script as well as giving a hilarious performance every year. He said: “As I am a real local I get asked to add a few local jokes, audiences like that. “Peter Pan is a great story and it is a really strong cast this year, I am really looking forward to working with them, it is a very special time of the year for me. “It’s busy, it’s hard work but it is just the best fun and I love it,” said Jon who started his stage career as a schoolboy in a King Edward’s School performance of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The role of Peter Pan will be played by musical theatre talent Tim Edwards, whose credits include The Book of Mormon in the West End and the UK tour of Wicked. Rachel Grundy who plays Tinker Bell has recently performed in the UK tour of Legally Blonde The Musical, The Rocky Horror Show on tour and in the West End. All cast members who spoke to the Bath Chronicle seemed genuinely excited about spending most of their Christmas in Bath. “Bath is one of the good ones,” said Paul. “There are places you really don’t want to spend a lot of time in but everyone loves coming to Bath.” As usual members of the legendary Dorothy Coleborn School of Dance will also be performing at this year’s panto. Peter Pan will be at the Theatre Royal, Bath from Thursday, December 13, to Sunday, January 19, with two performances each day. For tickets visit theatreroyal.org. uk or call 01225 448844.
Pictures: Paul Gillis From left, Tinkerbell (Rachel Grundy); Smee (Jon Monie); Captain Hook (Paul Nicholas); Mrs Darling (Rebecca Wheatley) and Peter Pan (Tim Edwards)