Here I was, sensibly asking Gary Wilmot "So how does the hook actually work?" and what's his reply? "Well, I go in tomorrow to have my hand amputated -” before detailing the steps involved in attaching a hook-hand.
It's these natural traits that make it obvious why comedian Gary Wilmot has been chosen as the devilish Captain Hook. This will be his first time out as a 'baddie', and though the prospect of having a roomful of people, including many children - incessantly booing you could be a daunting prospect for most, Gary simply says that it doesn't get any better than the interaction between audience and performer.
The play stars Wilmot, Lee Brennan (formerly of 911) as Peter Pan and Mina Anwar (best known for her role on The Thin Blue Line) as Minnie the Mermaid.
|The Cast pose with the mini Peter Pans|
The Assembly Rooms launched their upcoming version of the most popular pantomime ever in the Market Place on Thursday August 10th with a Family Fun Day, including a jazz band, Punch and Judy, face painting and a "dress up as Peter Pan" contest.
As the Bill Bailey Band struck up a tune, attention was turned to two vintage open-top cars carrying the cast. Even the mayor of Derby came by to show his support for the Christmas pantomime, opening Friday December 8th and running two shows on most days until January 7th.
Running the Show
Pantomime veteran Keith Simmons is no stranger to the hectic schedule, with 36 pantos under his belt and having written 100 in total, he's the optimum choice for the director, as well as again teaming with his son Ben in their distinct form of double act as Smee and gentleman Starkey.
|A new flag atop of the Assembly Rooms|
"I love panto." Keith says enthusiastically, "Mainly because the children who see it - it's usually their first live show - to actually see something live where things can go wrong - and we have to live up to these things that children can do anyway, like play video games."
On the subject of the performance calendar, he says "It is hard work to do two shows a day; it's all about energy. If performers show energy, it gets across to the audience and that's important."
Speaking about the appeal of the genre with audiences, Keith reflected pantomime being synonymous with Christmas and “If you've had a good laugh, enjoyed the music and seen a good story then it’s all gone well."
Not a typical Mermaid
Unfamiliar with the pantomime version of the story, I felt it was necessary to ask who Minnie the Mermaid actually is – and who better than the actress playing her, Mina Anwar.
“She appears in Neverland and Peter befriends her and she saves Tinkerbell from dying.”
Mina was flattered by the invitation to reprise her role after playing Birmingham Hippodrome opposite Joe Pasquale last year. "It was fantastic that they loved my 'mad' version of her. She's quite insane, not a 'typical mermaid' who just lies on the rocks, it’s a lot more physical."
|"It's important for them to go away feeling something called 'value for money.'"|
Gary Wilmot is also reserved when it comes to his personal approach to the role of Captain James Hook – “Any actor takes himself into the role - you only take your bag of tools." In panto tradition, he’ll also be doubling up as Mr Darling.
With the pantomime still four months away, there’s plenty of time for everyone to make the roles their own though and Gary is under no false pretences about what it is they’re there to do; "The most important thing is for the audience to take away memories; to make it fun filled and encourage them to come back every year. It's important for them to go away feeling something called 'value for money.'”
> Peter Pan starts at the Assembly Rooms on Friday 8th December. To book tickets or find out about performance times visit the website via the link on the right.