‘Oh yes it is!’
Nigel Powlson meets the stars who will be heading to Derby Arena for this year’s spectacular Christmas
production of Jack and the Beanstalk
It will be a Christmas homecoming for Bethan Nash as she gets her first taste of panto in her home county.
She plays Jill in this year’s Derby Arena spectacular Jack and the Beanstalk, working again with Derby LIVE, where her dream of being a stage performer grew in youth theatre under the creative eye of Pete Meakin.
Bethan played Florence Nightingale in the youth theatre production of A Lady with a Lamp and graduated to roles in three professional Derby shows – The Snow Queen, Much Ado About Nothing and Broken Hearted.
She trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School where she was the recipient of the Julian Slade Music Award in 2011 and the Peter O’toole Prize in 2015, and returned to Derbyshire to work with Oddsocks – the theatre company famous for its irreverent versions of Shakespeare’s plays – joining them on tour for a year. Since then she has mixed musical theatre with straight plays, has done some TV and short film work and started her own stage company but Jack and the Beanstalk will be her first panto.
Bethan has successfully made the transition from aspiring young talent to working professional but admits that it’s not easy. ‘There are a lot of people who want the same things as you,’ she says. ‘You have to work hard and learn your craft well as that increases your chances of doing the thing you love. I was lucky that I had always had a lot of encouragement.
‘Growing up in Wirksworth helped as well as it’s a real hub of artistic activity and my school, Anthony Gell, was really supportive. I love the Derbyshire Dales and it’s so nice to be back home. I will be able to drive home and sleep in my bed every night!
I’m also delighted to be working for Derby LIVE again as starting out with them and Pete Meakin, that was my foundation for training to be an actress, learning about what it took to be part of the industry. It also showed me the opportunities that existed and gave me role models to show what could be done.’
Bethan has used all the knowledge she has gained about stage craft to set up the New Mutiny Theatre Company. She says:
‘It’s for children’s and family theatre. We are based in Derbyshire and Brighton and we are affiliated with the Old Market Theatre in Brighton. I’m very much involved in devising the shows and producing them. It’s something I’m passionate about and having the ability to create your own work is really empowering. We always say we want to be the “Pixar of theatre”.
‘When I first graduated, I thought I had to concentrate on one thing but being a theatre maker is something I aspire to as well as my professional career on stage and screen. It’s also nice to float between different head spaces and putting on a producer’s hat gives me a better appreciation when someone else is doing it.’
Up next though is Jack and the Beanstalk and Bethan says that her year with
Oddsocks will help her with her first role in panto.
‘Certainly, in terms of the comedy, and the precision of the comedy. There is so much energy in pantos as well and people really do leave theatres inspired over Christmas. I’m looking forward to the challenge of how we play with that much space on the Derby Arena stage and engaging with that many people at one time. I think the costume changes and melting in the lights on stage will also be a challenge.’
Bethan plays Jill, the princess-type role in the panto, and is resplendent in a colourful gown when we meet – but she admits that’s not her at all.
‘I would have been out playing sport, getting muddy and stuff when I was little. And I think it’s important to challenge those stereotypes, which is starting to happen now. It’s important we show that to young people.’
The cast and crew were getting to know each other at a photo shoot at the Bluebell Dairy Farm in Spondon when Derbyshire Life