After five successive years as Peter Pan, David Ribi switches to Dick Whittington this year for his panto stint at the Hawth in Crawley this Christmas (December 6-January 5).
Best known for his career as a children’s TV presenter specifically for Channel 5’s Milkshake!, David is relishing the thought of playing someone different.
“Dick Whittington is one of the classic pantos. You think Cinders, you think Snow White and you think Dick Whittington, and I love it. It has got a bit of grit to it. There are a lot of different places to go do. At one point there is even a giant sea monster when we go off to Morocco.
“I love Dick because he has got a sense of adventure. He is an extremely positive person and he has got ambition. He wants to go to London. He wants to be Mayor. He wants to do things. I am a bit like that.”
David is quick to stress, though, that he’s not saying he wants to be Mayor of London: “I don’t think I would be very good at that. I will leave the politics to other people. But Dick will be a great character to play.
“I have done quite a few pantos. This is my seventh with (producers) Evolution. My very first panto was Aladdin in Yeovil, and then after that I went into a series of Peter Pans. Five Peter Pans. A lot of Peter Pans!
“And it was just great, getting to fly over the audience every day, and the way they did it was a bit like a circus. And Evolution’s style is just right up my street. I got to sing song great rock songs, Queen and so on. I think J M Barrie would be turning in his grave!”
But now the change: “I think I have finally got to the point where I could grow a bit of stubble and have a bit of a love interest. I am 32 actually, but a lot of people think I look 21.
“But now after having the same script for five years, it is great to be able to explore a new character rather than just brushing off what I did last time. But actually no two pantos were ever the same. They always found ways to make it a bit different. None of my Peter Pans were ever the same as the previous one.”
David is proud to say he was brought up on panto: “I had lots of cousins, and my grandma would take us. Every single year we would go along.
“And actually I was in my first panto when I was five in our local amdram company. I played the coachman to Cinderella. The second time I did panto I was Michael in Peter Pan and my mum was Peter Pan. Having your mum as the boy who wouldn’t grow up takes a bit of getting your head around!”
Since then he has massively expanded his theatre credits, including Milkshake Live! (2017 to now); Sky/Ensemble in Mamma Mia! (2016 UK Tour); Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show (2014/15 European Tour); and Sketch/Link in Hairspray (2014 UK Tour).
Milkshake has proved one of his favourite jobs: “I started three years ago, and no two days are the same. It is very challenging, very early morning starts, and the people are great.”
And definitely it feeds into panto very nicely: “They let you go off and do panto. I guess it is good for the panto companies that they can present us, but it is also good for the show.
“And I will definitely have an air of a TV presenter going into panto. The skills are very transferable. I am used to screaming kids. I am used to controlling that.
“I am used to the interaction. There are certainly a lot of similarities.”