Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, we smell lots of Panto fun! We chatted with pantomime cast members Matthew Grace and Joshua Coley about what you can expect from this year's pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk in an exclusive interview...
Hey guys! What have you been up to since we last saw you on stage?
Josh: I’ve been counting down the days until I can be back in Newbury for Christmas of course! I’ve been kept busy though with a few writing projects including work on the musical I wrote last year. Myself and Amy Christina Murray were both nominated at the Great British Panto Awards for Best Comedy Duo for Pickle and Lily in last years Beauty and The Beast, which we were incredibly honoured to be up against veterans like the Chuckle Brothers and the Krankies.
Matt: And since my last appearance in Newbury, I have been growing my own business, but have missed Newbury dearly and cannot wait to get back to the Corn Exchange!
You have both appeared in the Corn Exchange pantomime a number of times – what do you enjoy most about performing here?
Josh: I love Newbury! I love how the whole town gets behind the pantomime here and makes the cast feel really welcome. The Corn Exchange is a great entertainment hub and all the staff from the managers, crew and front of house teams make it such fun.
Matt: I have always loved making people laugh... normally at me rather than with! Puss in Boots at the Corn Exchange was one of my first jobs out of drama school back in 2009 so it holds a very special place in my heart and I regard Newbury as my second home.
A trip to the panto is a festive tradition for many families. Why do you think it is so popular with people of all ages?
Matt: The beauty of the Corn Exchange pantomime and Phil Willmott's wonderful writing is that there is something for everyone. A hilarious and moving script, brilliant songs, amazing choreography and dance routines. I dare anyone in that audience to find something they won’t absolutely love.
Josh: We all just love a bit of silly fun, don’t we? Christmas is all about family and the kids can go along with it all and the parents get to be big kids for an hour or so. I suppose in today’s current climate it’s quite nice to escape to a fairy-tale kingdom, far, far away.
Did you used to go to a pantomime as a child? Can you remember the first one you saw?
Matt: Pantomime was a yearly tradition as a kid, going with school and normally again with my family who wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My earliest memory of panto is seeing Robin Hood and his Merry Men at the Bristol Old Vic.
Josh: I was always in pantomime as a child back home in the Midlands so didn’t normally get to go to one - (I think my Mum and Dad were all panto-ed out!) - but I remember seeing Michaela Strachan as Peter Pan when I was very young and not quite understanding why Michaela from TV was suddenly flying above my head... and called Peter!
Can you tell us a little about what to expect from the Adult Only nights?
Matt: A lot of winks, nudge nudges, and a cast of actors trying not to laugh on stage!
Josh: From one of last years song sheets I’d say expect the unexpected. But seriously it’s an excuse to let your hair down and join in with the festivities. Oh, and Jack’s big beanstalk...
Have you got any funny panto stories you can share with us?
Josh: There are so so many I could say and a few that I probably can’t, from people missing cues to being beaten up by school kids dressed as a gorilla. I think the funniest thing to have happened was when Amy last year ended a number by jumping into my arms, but as she did, instead of grabbing my shoulder for support, grabbed my wolf wig pulling it off completely, leaving me standing centre stage wolf-headless!
Matt: The one that springs to mind is consuming a bag of chocolate during the song sheet. As things tend to over the whole panto run, what started off as a one-off gag grew, and I would stuff my face on stage to try and put off my rival song sheet performer. Unfortunately, one show I did get a little carried away and a Munchie went down the wrong way, with a mouthful of chocolate I tried my hardest not to bring it all back up onto the stage. However it got a laugh, so no regrets!
Jack and the Beanstalk runs from Fri 30 Nov - Sun 6 Jan. Find out more
Our Adult Nights take place on 7, 8, 13,14 and 15 December.
(Left Picture) Matthew Grace as Billy the Cat in Dick Whittington, 2015 (c) Sheila Burnett
(Right Picture) Joshua Coley as Pickle and Amy Christina Murray as Lily in Beauty and The Beast, 2017 (c) Alex Harvey-Brown