Amid a star-studded cast that also includes Robert Lindsay and Rachel Stanley, comedian Jon Clegg plays Smee in Aladdin, this year’s Richmond Theatre pantomime. We ask him some questions.
Q. How did you get into acting and who were your inspirations? “I got into acting through pantomime! I was working as a stand-up comedian and was told I should give panto a try. I’ve always loved comedy actors – probably Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson were my first inspiration, and Laurel and Hardy!”
Q. What was the first pantomime you remember seeing, and where? “I didn’t go to a pantomime until I was a teenager – how deprived is that?! But then my first panto was in Redhill, Surrey, and starred the lady from the Shake’n’Vac ads.”
Q. What was your first panto role? “I played Wishee Washee in Aladdin, at the Tameside Hippodrome in Ashton Under Lyme near Manchester. I was alongside Hunter from the Gladiators [James Crossley], Irene from Home and Away [Lynn McGrainger], and the vicar from Dad’s Army [Frank Williams].”
Q. What do you enjoy about playing panto? “It’s great to work with a cast of fabulous actors – I do solo stand-up work the rest of the year. And it’s great fun, entertaining an audience full of beaming children is a real pleasure!”
Q. Is there a role on your wish list you would love to play one Christmas? “I love playing the comedy role in pantomime. Buttons was always on my wish list, and I have been fortunate to play that role three times now!”
Q. I imagine performing in panto can be quite intense, with a lot of days with more than one performance. How do you relax off stage? “It is intense, but it’s also incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. I enjoy long walks, eating out and watching sport when I’m not on the stage.”
Q. Is this the first time you have appeared at Richmond? “Yes, it’s my first time at Richmond. I came to see panto here 10 years ago, when I was in Brighton, as a friend was in the show. Paul Zerdin and Nigel Havers were the stars. They were brilliant, and two years later I worked with Nigel in Peter Pan at the Hawth Theatre in Crawley.”
Q. Peter Pan is set on an island. If you were stranded on an island which three people living, historic or fictional would you like to have with you and why?
“Firstly, my wife (of course!) along with Winston Churchill and Anthony Kiedis (lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers)”.
Peter Pan is on at Richmond Theatre between Saturday, 8th December & Sunday, 6th January. Other Christmas shows worth catching include Snow White at the Palladium and 42nd Street at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.