Interview with Jack and the Beanstalk Cast

Interview with Jack and the Beanstalk Cast

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As the pantomime season kicks off, InQuire’s Emma Shelton and Dan English chat to Samantha Womack (Eastenders) and Phil Gallagher (CBeebies’ Mister Maker), lead actors in this year’s pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk at The Marlowe Theatre. Listen to the interviews or read the transcript below.

Samantha Womack

Emma Shelton: How are rehearsels going?

It’s alot to learn in a short space of time. So when in doubt, shimmy, that’s my motto.

The older you get, I’m 41, you are not quite as quick at taking things in, especially with stuff you don’t do as often, like dancing. So I’m trying really hard, but every now and then, I just end up having marshmallow moments, going “I’ve melted.”

But the rehearsels are really nice. It’s a really warm bunch of people. We’ve bonded really quickly which is nice. There’s a lot of laughter, because the script’s very funny but so are the people in it. Maybe too much laughter, we are having too good a time.

Dan English: So how is this different to being on Eastenders?

You use a different part of your brain. With straight acting, you’re reacting to people. So the fairy is quite difficult: you are talking in rhyming couplets all the time and you’re not interacting with anyone. And often, the couplets are structured quite strangely in order to rhyme. So, most of time, it’s a case of learning an amalgamation of words with no emotional content. That’s quite tough.

ES: What’s your role as the fairy?

She’s kind of the narrator of the piece. She sets up the scenes. A little bit cheeky and naughty. We’ve gone for a more impish fairy this year, rather than traditional glitter and pink. She’s a vegetable fairy. My theory is when you’re over 35, you become a ‘vegetable fairy’.

DE: Is this your first pantomime?

I did ITV’s pantomime, a few years ago. That was massive. I had such a good time doing that.

I recognised the traditional aspect to it. I came from comedy when I started out so I was respectful of the banter, the writing, the dames. If it’s done properly, if it’s kept traditional, it feels creative.

ES: What made you choose to do the pantomime?

Just because I had such a good time doing the ITV one. I’ve been asked every year, and every year, I’ve been tied into something else.

I was a bit nervy as well, because it depends which pantomime you do. Some of them are much more lavish and grand, but maybe not as traditional as the old ones, and I really wanted to make sure that my experience was as close to a traditional pantomime as possible. Like that, I think it’s safe for the family, and I think the kids enjoy that.

ES: Were you used to going to the pantomime as a child?

I go every year. It’s the one thing that you can do as a family that has something for everybody. You get stuff for the parents, and for the little ones. That’s quite hard to find, that box to tick.

Like everybody else, I work really, really hard. I’ve got a family, so I understand what it means to have a bit of escapism at Christmas. I think it’s really important. And I know people are financially strapped aswell, but I do think that if you can do one Christmassy thing…

ES: Is your family going to come and visit you to see this?

I’ve had to keep Lily away. Lily is my 8 year old. Ben is not that interested.

Lily has been in every show I’ve done. She’s really lucky. Dancing with Patrick Swayze when she was 2 years old. He was lifting her up, and “nobody puts Lily in the corner.”

I was like “You don’t know how lucky you are.”

It’s a pretty awesome introduction she’s had, whether she chooses to do it or not. It’s still a very cool world to be in.

DE: Well I’m jealous.

ES: I’m really jealous. I want that.

So was I. I was like “pick ME up Patrick!”

Phil Gallagher

ES: So you studied radio, film and tv, with English and Drama at Christchurch. Were you involved with CSR at the time?

It was called C4 Radio at Christchurch at the time. But yes, I was for 3 years. When I started, which was in the 90s, I first helped out by reading out the sports bulletins.

ES: What was your University experience like at Christchurch?

I loved it. When I came to Canterbury, I just had the three best years of my life. I look back on them so fondly. The course was really good. I’ve still kept in touch with some of the lecturers and I go back and help out every now then with Christchurch.

I made lifelong friends when I was there and I’m still best friends with the people I lived with at Uni. They’re all coming to see me in the pantomime, and a lot of them are coming with their kids as well, which is really nice. A lot of my family are in Kent so they are all really chuffed as well.

ES: Did you know you wanted to be an actor when you were at Uni?

I did. Actually Canterbury played a big part in me getting my first job, and my break in TV. With any industry, it’s all about getting your first foot in the door.

My first foot in the door, came from a lady at Disney channel, and I only got that contact from a chap who was in my course at Christchurch. To go back to your question though, from a very early age, before Christchurch, I always wanted to perform. I was always doing puppet shows behind my sofas with cuddly toys.

ES: Is the pantomime similar to being on TV?

There is great comedy in it. There is something for everyone in the pantomime. It doesn’t matter if you are 1 or 101, you can come to a pantomime and enjoy it. There are some older gags in it for the parents and the grandparents. Some of those will go over the kids’ heads but they are also produced and cleverly written by Paul Hendy, in a way that quite often, they are part of a slapstick routine or it’s a funny face or a funny sound that accompanies the gag, so the kids will laugh anyway, because they are getting something from it.

The one difference with our TV show, Mr Maker, and the pantomime, is that it’s live. We have a script here, but you never quite know where it’s going to go. That’s what makes it unique.And, for a lot of the younger kids (Sarah Munday works really hard with the schools and the younger people coming in), this could be the very first time they have ever set foot in a theatre, let alone they have ever come to a pantomime.

Hopefully, what we are doing here, and it’s a massive team effort, with not just the people on stage but everything that makes the theatre what it is, is to make that experience for the kids the best it can be and an inspiring one. They won’t realise it at the time, but hopefully as they grow older, they will want to come back and explore the other forms of theatre as well.

DE: You’ve done 9 pantomimes. Out of all the characters you’ve played, which was your favourite?

I’m going to have to sit on the fence. The only thing I will say is that I’ve worked with Evolution, this being my fifth Evolution panto, and these have definitely been my favourites. This will blow your socks off. Even though I haven’t done it yet, I expect this to be my favourite.

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