Olly Pike is delighted to be back for his fourth successive pantomime at The Capitol in Horsham.
This year’s show is Jack and the Beanstalk, running from Friday, December 8, to Sunday, December 31.
“I can’t believe they keep asking me back!” laughs Olly, who says it’s a pleasure to perform in a venue that’s so good for panto.
“The theatre is such a big part of it,” he explains. “It’s a very nice intimate theatre, not too big. It’s not like one of those big shows. It’s quite a small-scale space to perform in, and you feel that the audience is really with you.
“The more you can connect with the audience, the better the show, and at The Capitol you can really do that.
“I have done other shows in really massive theatres, and the audience feels so far away from you that it is difficult to take them on the journey you want to take them on.”
Olly reckons he has now probably done six or seven pantomimes in all. His first ever, coincidentally Jack and the Beanstalk, was while he was still at college: “I was one of the dancers in the show, and I thought it would be a good way to get your first gig.”
Over the years, he has learned a secret or two about successful pantomimes.
“The most important thing is to relax,” Olly says.
“It’s not very serious, and the more you relax, the more relaxed the audience is, and the better the comedy comes across. I have done other shows where it is all about precision and getting it right.”
“Sometimes in pantomime, it feels like you have to get it wrong to get it right!
“Normally I play the goofy sidekick, but the past few years, I have been playing the hero, which is weird, but I do like to put my little shine on it.”
Sometimes playing the hero can be less fun, but not if you can give it your own stamp, in Olly’s case adding “my own little goofy style”.
“It is all about having fun with it, but when I play the hero, I also want to be an unassuming hero, the kind of hero who doesn’t actually realise he is a hero until the end.”
Since his last time at Horsham, Olly has continued to build on the growing success of his LGBT and equality fairy tells.
“I tell the fairy tales, but give them a little bit of a twist. I have done a transgender Cinderella story.
“It’s about being inclusive of different types of people in children’s media. It is important to have representation of people from minority groups, whether LGBT or disabled or from different cultures.”
Olly was pleased to see the gay nod in Beauty and The Beast on the big screen this year.
“I just wish they had gone the extra miles.”
Olly’s point is that his are the kinds of books he would have liked to have had himself when he was growing up: “As a gay man, I felt very different growing up. I felt quite alone, I guess. If I had had the kind of fairy tales, I am producing now, I think I would have felt a lot better. It’s just about representation, seeing someone a little bit like me in a fairy tale, saying that it is okay.
“Lots of schools use my books, and lots of charities take them into schools. I got short-listed for a national diversity award this year. Maybe next year I might win!”
Tickets for Jack and The Beanstalk (£11-£21.50) are on sale from The Capitol on 01403 750220.
Alternatively, you can purchase them online at www.thecapitolhorsham.com.
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