|St Albans Panto 2005/06|
The Adventures of Peter Pan with special guests Leslie Grantham (Eastenders) and Dani Harmer (Tracy Beaker)
The Alban Arena - Friday 16th Dec 2005 to Sunday 8th January 2006
In the world of soap opera baddies, Leslie Grantham's portrayal of EastEnders' Dirty Den would be ranked high on the list of all time rascals.
Until his recent discovery buried in the cellar of the Queen Vic, his reign of terror on the Square had lasted nearly 20 years, albeit with a 14 year absence along the way.
This time his exit from the soap should ensure he will never be able to return, but you never know!
|Leslie as Dirty Den|
In the meantime Leslie is returning to the stage and not just as the star of the Alban Arena pantomime, Peter Pan, he will also be directing the Christmas show.
With the ability to don his long wig and big tash and please an audience, he is hoping to wow the crowds with what he describes as more than just a pantomime, it is a 'good family Christmas show with music'.
We caught up with Leslie in the garden of a pub in St Albans, which was a bit too close to the cellar for my liking!
So, another year, another panto?
Leslie: Yes, you are absolutely right, I didn't do one last year because of EastEnders and the year before I didn't do Peter Pan, I was in Belfast doing Dick Whittington. But it is nice to come back and do Hook, I think I was made for it really, although I do have two arms.
I really enjoy it and seemingly we have got a great cast. I've got Dani (Harmer) who is playing Pan and obviously I'm directing the performance, so if she annoys me it will be the first time in Peter Pan history that Pan gets eaten by the crocodile, but I'm sure it will be fine.
How many pantos have you done now?
|Leslie gets to grips with his co-star |
This is my 13th Christmas of doing pantomimes, the first one I ever did was terrible. It was at the Theatre Royal Nottingham playing Robin Hood in Babes in the Wood and it was really terrible.
I never thought I'd do another one and then I got offered Captain Hook in Peter Pan by Jon Conway from Qdos and I've worked for them for the last 12 Christmases and it has been fantastic.
Do you now get to choose which role you play?
Well my kids did really. They phoned up and one of my boys, I think it was Spike, answered the phone. Jon Conway was on the end and said "could you ask your dad does he want to do Robin Hood or Hook". The boys were into Hook then and said "Hook definitely" and I'm glad they did.
How are you going to cope with such a long run, do you lose a lot of weight?
No, I'm built like a butcher's pencil anyway so it is fine, it’s an ensemble show so everyone puts in an equal amount of energy.
Do you still get nervous on stage?
|"Having looked at the viewing figures recently, when it was down to 7.4 million, I think they're in a pretty bad way."|
|Leslie Grantham on Eastenders since he left.|
All the time, I'm very nervous now I'm talking to you, I was dreadfully nervous when I found out I was being interviewed by you.
Do you often find that you are type cast as a baddie?
Who wants to play a good guy? When you think about it, all the best parts in pantomimes are the bad guys and Hook is a great character to play. I don't play him nastily and yes he is nasty, but he is a bit of a buffoon and if you think about it, he is Mr Darling's alter ego.
So what does Darling say to you or to me? It means he’s an actor because they all say darling, so I'm playing him as a frustrated over the top actor who’s a bit of a coward.
And is that true to form?
|Behind the bar pulling pints again.|
Oh definitely, over the top actor, my acting is definitely over the top!
How do you stay motivated for the long run of pantomime?
You try and stay motivated by making it fresh and also if you are working with a nice company, I hear actors all the time going "oh panto is such hard work". Well it is hard work if you are working with a load of people who aren't professional or a lot of egos.
Luckily, and I cross my fingers, we're not going to have any egos this year and I'm there to stamp on any of it. Because if I don't have an ego no one else does. The show isn't about us, it's about the kids, it’s about the audience.
I would say, and I'll probably get into trouble for this, I wouldn't say this was your typical pantomime. This is a darn good family Christmas show with music and every time I have done it, everyone has come up afterwards and said it’s great, it’s fantastic, we really enjoyed it.
That is all I want, I want people to go out and say I really enjoyed that and I want to see that again.
What should the audience look out for, what is the bit that you are going to make really special?
Well I think the music is fantastic, and the dancing will be great. We've got a great choreographer. She has worked with me as a dancer and she is now a choreographer and she is very, very good.
|Leslie still proves a big media draw!|
The Acromanics are going to be fantastic and if I can get Smee to do the acrobat routine then it is going to be hilarious. There are laughs, there is music, good dancing and there is a good story and there is a nice sword fight and obviously Peter Pan will fly either in the auditorium or on the end of my boot. And don't forget there is a crocodile!
One final question I have to ask is about Eastenders. What with Den’s body being found, what is the reaction on the street? Do people keep running up to you shouting 'your alive!'?
The reaction I get is "oh I thought you were under concrete" or "we don't watch the show now you're not in it". Having looked at the viewing figures recently, when it was down to 7.4 million, I think they're in a pretty bad way.
Leslie Grantham will be starring as Captain Hook alongside Dani Harmer in Peter Pan at the Alban Arena from Friday 16th December 2005 until Sunday 8th January 2006.