Mag­ic­the AIR

Hove’s Keris Lea is fin­ish­ing the big­gest 12 months of her ca­reer by pen­ning a new panto ver­sion of Jack and the Beanstalk in

Sussex Life - - Front Page - Dun­can Hall

Christ­mas has al­ways been about pan­tomime for writer and ac­tor Keris Lea. Her fa­ther was the the­atre man­ager at Cardiff’s New The­atre and was re­spon­si­ble for writ­ing and di­rect­ing the an­nual Christ­mas gala.

So Dad was nat­u­rally the first per­son Hove-based Keris con­tacted when she was of­fered the chance to write the sec­ond E3 Pro­duc­tion pan­tomime at the Hil­ton Brighton Metropole.

“Do­ing a show at Christ­mas is in my blood,” she says sit­ting back­stage at Jack and the Beanstalk’s of­fi­cial launch.

“For a lot of peo­ple a pan­tomime is of­ten the first time a child will go to the the­atre – so it’s im­por­tant to get it right.”

The 42-year-old’s role as Fairy Na­ture al­most acts as a book­end to what has been a pretty spec­tac­u­lar year in her ca­reer. In De­cem­ber she played the Fairy God­mother in E3’s in­au­gu­ral Brighton panto Cin­derella. But as she trod the boards it was with the knowl­edge that her life was go­ing to change thanks to a BBC One prime­time Satur­day night show. The Sun­daes, the cabaret trio she founded in 2010 with the sup­port of E3’s David Hill, had per­formed on the tal­ent show All To­gether Now hosted by Spice Girl Geri Horner and Rob Beck­ett. And as Keris granted Cin­ders her great­est wish she knew the flam­boy­ant trio had made it all the way to the fi­nal, fin­ish­ing in the top five.“it had all been filmed at the end of the year, but

All To­gether Now

it wasn’t go­ing to be aired un­til Jan­uary,” says Keris. “We couldn’t tell any­body. It was so dif­fi­cult to keep quiet!”

The tal­ent show saw per­form­ers sing in front of an au­di­ence of 100 in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als, lined up in front of them in in­tim­i­dat­ing stack­ing booths. If they liked the act, the judges would change the colour of their booth, and start singing and danc­ing along.

“We had to look at them as if they were the au­di­ence, not judges,” says Keris, who per­forms as Choco­late Sun­dae, along­side Amy Goater as Straw­berry and An­drea Martin as Vanilla. “We knew the act worked re­ally well, but it could have gone one way or the other. As soon as we saw peo­ple stand­ing up we knew we weren’t go­ing to have to do the em­bar­rass­ing walk of shame!”

The Sun­daes got the judges on their feet with ren­di­tions of Barbra Streisand and Donna Sum­mer’s No More Tears (Enough is Enough) and The

“We were the only group that got to the fi­nal which was fan­tas­tic,” says Keris. “We went on be­cause we wanted the phone to ring more – we wanted to raise the pro­file of the act. It’s been crazy since – the phone hasn’t stopped ring­ing. We did an amaz­ing sum­mer sea­son, per­form­ing ev­ery sin­gle day, and a num­ber of big fes­ti­vals in­clud­ing Pride in Cardiff and Glas­gow. It ticked all the boxes we wanted it to.”

She feels there is a crossover be­tween cabaret and pan­tomime. “Cabaret is a bit like mu­si­cal the­atre,” says Keris. “I’m go­ing out there to tell a story. As The Sun­daes there is a story through­out the set – we are three char­ac­ters. My char­ac­ter Choco­late is a strong-minded fig­ure – a bit bossy. Straw­berry is a bit of a flirt, and Vanilla is plain and sim­ple.

“The show started be­cause I was fed up of go­ing to au­di­tions and be­ing in the ‘no’ pile be­cause of the way I looked or be­cause I didn’t fit into last year’s cos­tume. Some­times I wouldn’t even get a chance to sing. I wanted to do some­thing where it only mat­tered that you were tal­ented – and that’s the premise of the show.”

Jack and the Beanstalk is packed full of pop­u­lar songs whose main func­tion is to push the ac­tion along. “The songs had to be there for a rea­son,” says Keris, who put story at the cen­tre of her script. “I’ve seen pan­tomimes where it is all about the celebrity names – the story doesn’t make sense. The story and char­ac­ters are im­por­tant. When you’ve got those right you can start adding the lay­ers.”

Like Cin­derella there is a love story at the heart of Jack and the Beanstalk, as Jack falls in love with a princess. But there is also plenty of magic – with Keris’ Fairy Na­ture look­ing af­ter the magic beans and en­sur­ing Jack grows up into a hero, plus a spe­cial video ap­pear­ance by pan­tomime roy­alty Christo­pher Big­gins.

Keris won’t be drawn on the spe­cial ef­fects which will go into this pro­duc­tion, but it can’t hurt that E3 is build­ing its own the­atre

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