Former EastEnder aims to ‘hook’ future audiences with Crawley panto

Shaun Williamson (Captain Hook). Picture Paul Clapp
Shaun Williamson (Captain Hook). Picture Paul Clapp

Shaun Williamson is having a fantastic run on the stage at the moment.

He enjoyed great success in One Man, Two Guv’nors with EastEnders’ Emma Barton, with whom he reunites on stage in Crawley this Christmas in Peter Pan.

Before that, he toured in a stage version of the classic TV sitcom Porridge.

He’s also gone on to enjoy a stint as Mr Perks in The Railway Children at King’s Cross. Similarly, he relished Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

“And now, this is my 15th panto,” says Shaun, who is looking forward to playing Captain Hook at Crawley’s Hawth from Friday, December 9 to January 2.

“I think I have done one pretty much every year since I left EastEnders. I love it. I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t do panto every year. It becomes a habit.

“I don’t think I would want eight weeks off over Christmas or the two weeks that people get in normal jobs. I think I would just get bored. I am being totally serious. I just love working, and doing a panto actually makes Christmas Day really special – because it is the only day you get off. I wouldn’t know what to do otherwise.

“To be honest, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the money is a factor. The money is good, and we all get a nasty tax bill in January, and panto takes the pressure off.

“And also I suppose in a way we are all insecure deep down in this business and are wanting to keep working. But I find it hard to relax. I might find it easier to relax if I knew I had the next nine months’ work sorted out!”

But the bottom line is that Shaun genuinely loves panto: “It is just magical, and you have got to remember that for a lot of children, it is the first time they have been to the theatre.”

Which, of course, makes it a big responsibility for the actors. They have got to take the chance to hook (or maybe Captain-Hook) the audiences of the future and reel them in.

“But playing the villain is particularly good fun. You can have a lot of adult stuff going on that the children would never pick up on.

“You can just do it with a nod and a wink to the adults.”

Judging the extent of the villainy is always an interesting one: “There is no point whatsoever in reducing the children to tears! But at the same time, you have got to crank it up. You have got to start slowly and then maybe build it as you go along.

“This is my first Hook. I have played Abernazar 500 times in seven or eight pantos, and I have done Sheriff of Nottingham. But I haven’t done Hook before, and it is a great part. I have seen it done as very much Pirates of the Caribbean, but I just like the Disney character.

“I will be doing it much more along those lines. There is going to be a heavy dose of Disney in what I do.

“Hook is the Eton pupil, but actually there is also an element of Jaws, the guy going after the shark that got him. And there is also an element of Moby Dick and Captain Ahab… There is a lot going on. He is a really interesting character to play.”

For tickets call 01293 553636 or visit www.hawth.co.uk.

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