JAMES Mackenzie follows in the CBeebies’ footsteps of Maddie Moate last winter and Andy Day in 2021 in being signed up for the York Theatre Royal pantomime.
The Scottish actor and game show host, 44, will play the villainous Luke Backinanger in the “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fun family pantomime” Jack And The Beanstalkfrom December 8 2023 to January 7 2024.
Moate appeared as Tinkerbell in All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, preceded by Day’s Dandini in Cinderella.
Mackenzie will turn to the dark side in the fourth panto collaboration between the Theatre Royal and Evolution Productions, having played the immortal, leather-clad warrior in CBBC’s fantasy adventure game show Raven.
He was the original lead character in the multi-Bafta award-winning show Raven from 2002 to 2010. This mysterious warlord led young warriors on a quest to test their skills and win their heart’s desire in a show that garnered cult status, spanning 15 series ﬁlmed in far-ﬂung exotic locations such as India. Its popularity saw it air from Canada to Australia and places aplenty in between.
Mackenzie has worked for many theatre companies, such as the National Theatre of Scotland, and has performed all over Britain in everything from Macbeth to the Proclaimers’ musical Sunshine On Leith. He has been a regular in BBC Scotland’s soap opera River City and made guest appearances in Still Game and Outlander.
Over the past few years, he has been introduced to a new CBeebies’ generation as James in Molly And Mack. He has been part of the CBeebies Christmas shows and performed on stage at Shakespeare’s Globe for CBeebies Shakespeare. Like most Scottish actors, he has appeared in Taggart more than once.
Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster, who will be directing Jack And The Beanstalk, says: “We are delighted to welcome James Mackenzie to the cast for this year’s panto. James is such a well-loved children’s TV personality and we can’t wait to see him strut his stuff as the bad boy of panto.”
Mackenzie will perform alongside the already announced Robin Simpson in his fourth Theatre Royal panto. Simpson played the dame in The Travelling Pantomime in 2020, the British Pantomime Award-nominated Ugly Sister Manky in Cinderella in 2021 and Mrs Smee in All New Adventures of Peter Pan last winter.
He will be on dame duty in Jack And The Beanstalk, with further casting to be announced for a show that promises “stunning sets, lavish costumes, breath-taking special effects and lots of pantomime magic”.
Evolution’s co-founder Paul Hendy is writing the script once more, as he did for the past three pantos.
Tickets are “proving popular”, with a special family ticket offer available for all performances: £75 for bookings with three tickets, including at least one adult and one child, saving up to £52, or £100 for bookings with four tickets, including at least one adult and one child, saving up to £68. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
York Theatre Royal and Evolution Productions present All New Adventures Of Peter Pan at York Theatre Royal. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
THE show title signifies changes afoot and freshness, but York Theatre Royal knows continuity is important too.
In the third year of the pantomime partnership with Evolution Productions – with a fourth year already rubber stamped for Jack And The Beanstalk next winter – Juliet Forster remains the director, Paul Hendy, the writer, and Hayley Del Harrison, the choreographer.
Children’s favourite Faye Campbell returns too, alongside the double-the-trouble double act of Paul Hawkyard and Robin Simpson, Cinderella’s award-nominated Ugly Sisters last year and now villainous Captain Hook and dame Mrs Smee respectively.
Having a CBeebies TV presenter to the fore last year in Andy Day proved a hit, and so science whizz Maddie Moate fronts the poster and flyer campaign this time as a feisty, fearless, even fractious Tinkerbell.
What’s new? The story for a start, still rooted in JM Barrie, but for the next generation. Wendy Darling is now Wendy Sweet (Theatre Royal newcomer Francesca Benton-Stace), mum to single-minded Elizabeth (Campbell), who craves her own flight to Neverland with Peter Pan (Jason Battersby). Elizabeth is more of a feminist, never attracted to Peter in the way Wendy was, but very much a dab hand at the “Lizzie Mother” role to the Lost Boys and Lost Girls.
There’s a new Newfoundland nanny dog in the house too, Nana being replaced by Minton, who leaves a mark on the show in more than one way. Naughty, Minton.
The father of the house, Hawkyard’s Mr Sweet, still turns into Captain Hook; Simpson’s dame makes a rather smaller leap for pantokind from home help Mrs Smee to Hook’s henchperson Mrs Smee. Likewise, Jonny Weldon, actor since childhood and social media comedy-sketch phenomenon since Covid lockdowns, switches from butler Mr Starkey to Hook’s other henchman, Starkey.
The double act becomes a mischief-making trio, Hawkyard’s dandy, intemperate Hook still ridiculously vainglorious but the butt of multiple jokes as shock-haired cheeky chappy Weedon and Simpson’s savvy dame conduct a pun fight to the last.
Oh, how writer Paul Hendy loves a pun, no matter how convoluted the set-up, and when it is combined with visual gags in a fish-name routine, reprising the magazine-title routine from 2020’s Travelling Pantomime, the jokes really get their skates on, faster, funnier, fishier.
Act One hits its stride amid the mayhem of Hawkyard, Simpson and Weldon struggling to manoeuvre a boat across the stage, dangerously close to the orchestra pit, reducing fourth occupant Moate’s to fits of laughter on the stern. This scene, already ripe for improvisation, will grow ever more chaotic as the run progresses.
Moate’s beaming Tinkerbell had made her first entry from above, flying high over the stage. Soon Battersby’s Pan, a magical, mysterious yet damaged perennial child, will lead Campbell’s Elizabeth across the London night sky to a duet of Take That’s Rule The World and onwards to Neverland in a gorgeous video projection by Dr Andy.
Later, in Act Two, Simpson’s Mrs Smee will emerge from on high too to the accompaniment of the James Bond theme, now playing flipper-clad Caroline Bond on a hoist that stubbornly refuses to touch the ground despite Simpson’s increasingly desperate pleas. Comic timing is exquisite here, and again, for all Simpson’s self-sacrificing physical discomfort, this scene is sure to expand.
Hendy and director Juliet Forster love the magic of pantomime as much as the comic mayhem rendered by haughty Hawkyard and co. This applies equally to Helga Wood, Michelle Marden and Stuart Relph’s set design, for London house, island and aboard the Jolly Roger, and to Harrison’s fizzing and fun choreography, and they are never happier than when magic and mirth elide in the Mermaids, beautiful and shimmering at first, but then turning into gossipy fish wives.
Benton-Stace’s scene-stealing Myrtle the Mermaid gives the outstanding vocal performance under Benjamin Dovey’s musical direction, run close by Hawkyard’s riotous Guns N’ Roses number, Neil Morgan guitar solo et al.
Cultural references play their part, from departing Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock to departing Dr Who Jodie Whittaker; Moate is granted a brief science bit about the sun; Campbell’s Elizabeth turns on the girl power and dance captain Emily Taylor drives on her troupe of Lost Boys and Girls with boundless energy.
Big, big cheers go to the show’s speciality act, East African acrobats Teddy, Muba and Mohamed, alias The Black Diamonds, who defy the compact space to pull off dazzling feats of athleticism.
“All New” these adventures may be, but the increasingly tedious Sweet Caroline is an unimaginative choice for the song-sheet singalong. Not so good, so good, alas. Far better is the impact of Duncan Woodruff’s fight direction for Hook’s clashes with magic-powered fairy Tinkerbell, Elizabeth and Pan alike.
Michael J Batchelor and Joey Arthurs’ beautiful but bonkers costumes for Simpson’s dame keep topping the last one, and it is lovely to see the Theatre Royal walkdown scene in full pomp once more in gold, cream and white.
Something of the darkness of Barrie’s original story is lost in pursuit of pantomime frolics, but York Theatre Royal and Evolution unquestionably have found their groove, their own schtick, that appeals to children and adults alike.Simpson’s convivial dame is already confirmed for next year, another sign of continuity in this new age for the Theatre Royal pantomime.
YOU must have seen CBeebies’ favourite Maddie Moate’s smiling face on the side of buses, at shelters, on billboards and flyers, as the poster star for York Theatre Royal’s pantomime, All New Adventures Of Peter Pan.
“It’s very strange because it’s not usual to see pictures of myself staring back at me at bus stops, on lamp posts and even the menus here !” says the Maddie’s Do You Know? television presenter, podcaster, YouTuber and children’s author, who will be starring as feisty fairy Tinkerbell in creative director Juliet Forster’s production from tomorrow (2/12/2022) to January 2 2023. “That’s an entirely new experience!
“There’s a little pressure there, but I’m really glad the show is selling so well because, being at the front of the poster, I’m aware it comes with responsibility, though the show is not ‘the Tinkerbell show’, it’s very much about the ensemble, the full cast. After all, Tinkerbell is often played by a little light bulb or a bell!”
Following Andy Day – Dandini in last year’s Cinderella – as the CBeebies’ name in the York Theatre Royal-Evolution Productions co-production, Maddie was the first signing for the Peter Pan cast and will be sharing the stage with returnees Faye Campbell (Elizabeth Darling), Paul Hawkyard (Captain Hook) and Robin Simspon (Mrs Smee); viral video sensation Jonny Weldon (Starkey) and Jason Battersby (Peter Pan).
Not only being the dominant face on the panto poster is new to Maddie, so too will be flying across the stage. “I’m not scared of flying. In fact, I’m thrilled! When I found out I’d be flying, that was the clincher for me, though I would have done it regardless. It was the cherry on the cake,” she says.
She conducted this interview the day before “Flyday Friday”, when the company met the flying team from Foy’s [Flying By Foy] for the first time. “All of us, apart from Jason, who was in Wendy & Peter Pan at Leeds Playhouse last winter – are first-time flyers, so it’ll be exciting to give it a go,” says Maddie.
“We’ll have to be at least 15ft high to fly through the window: the Theatre Royal stage is tall and it’s deep but it’s not so wide, so we’ll need a bit of height.”
Maddie will be making her entry that way. “I’ll have the one flying scene and then it’s done for me! I get it over and done with in my first scene,” she says.
Rather than a light or a bell, Maddie’s Tinkerbell is “one of Peter Pan’s sidekicks” in these All New Adventures. “She’s one of the Lost Children’s gang; they are her family, and she doesn’t like it when anyone else takes Peter’s attention away as he’s her very best friend.
“It’s said that fairies are so small, they have room for only one emotion at a time, so she’s a character of extremes – and she’s not like me!
“Quite often on TV you end up playing an exaggeration of yourself, but Tinkerbell is the furthest removed I could be from myself, and I’m having fun with that.”
Last Christmas, Maddie played Fairy Phoenix in panto at Leicester de Montfort Hall. “She was a fairy in training, whereas Tinkerbell has some serious fairy skills. Flying for one – and she has a stand-off with Captain Hook, where she gets to show off her magic skills.”
Her first experience of performing in panto was a “huge learning curve”. “Doing it for the first time made me really appreciate the medium, when it could be considered ‘silly’ or ‘not proper’ theatre, but last year I found it interesting to see just how steeped people are in the tradition,” she says.
“Some performers just have ‘panto bones. The timing. It’s all in the timing. So I got the rhythm of panto under my belt – I hope!”
Maddie had studied theatre, film and television at the University of Bristol from 2006 to 2009. “It was a course that had a little bit of everything, but first and foremost it was an academic degree,” she recalls.
“For a short time, I thought I wanted to go to drama school, but I quite quickly fell out of love with it and regretted not studying science. I was really missing science, which I hadn’t pursued as a degree because I didn’t know what role I would do afterwards, whereas I’d done theatre all my life.”
She would see wonderfully talented actors who would be perfect in a role but did not meet the director’s ideal for that part. Such unpredictability was unappealing, and so instead Maddie started working on an App for the National History Museum and ended up working for the wonderfully named Lady Geek TV.
Making a comedy YouTube series about smartphones and technology ensued. “Before I knew it, I was reviewing tech on YouTube and that became a career,” she recalls as the science side of Maddie found fulfilment.
“It was only later that CBeebies said they were looking for someone to talk about science on a new show, and it ended up being called Maddie’s Do You Know?”
Maddie has presented the series, exploring the secret workings of everyday objects, since 2016 and a year later she won the Best Presenter category at the BAFTA Children’s Awards. Multiple science-based projects have followed.
“Now it’s all come back round, starting as a performer, deciding not to pursue acting full time, then doing science, but now returning to the stage in pantomime all these years later,” she says.
All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, York Theatre Royal, December 2 to January 2 2023. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
GHOST stories, pantomimes and Jools’s annual visit top Charles Hutchinson’s list of winter essentials to keep warm and alert.
Ghost stories of the week, part one: Dyad Productions in Christmas Gothic, Theatre@41, Monkgate, tonight (27/11/2022), 7.30pm
FROM the creators of I, Elizabeth, A Room Of One’s Own, Female Gothic and Austen’s Women comes a dark celebration of Christmas, adapted and performed by Rebecca Vaughan.
Come in from the cold and embrace the Christmas spirit as a spectral woman tells haunting tales of the festive season, lighting a candle to the frailties of human nature and illuminating the chilling depths of the bleak, wintry gloom at this time of feasts and festivities, visits and visitations, ghosts and more ghosts. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Ghost Stories For Christmas, part two: James Swanton, York Medical Society, Stonegate, York, select dates from November 29 to December 20, 7pm
YORK’S gothic ghost storyteller supreme, James Swanton, presents his most ambitious Dickensian schedule yet, with 12 shows back home and around 20 more around the country, transferring to London’s Charles Dickens Museum in the run-up to Christmas.
Ghost Stories For Christmas is made up of Swanton’s hour-long solo renditions of A Christmas Carol (eight performances) and the lesser-known The Chimes and The Haunted Man (two nights each). Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/show/ghost-stories-for-christmas/.
Good for the soul show of the week: The Stylistics, York Barbican, tonight (27/11/2022), 7.30pm
SOULFUL Philadelphia harmony veterans The Stylistics “can’t wait to be back in the UK, performing all our hits, bringing back great memories and having a great evening with you all” on their 27-date tour.
In the line-up will be founder members Arrion Love and Herb Murrell, complemented by ‘Bo’ Henderson and Jason Sharp, as the 2004 inductees into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame sing I’m Stone In Love With You, You Make Me Feel Brand New, Let’s Put It All Together, You Are Everything et al. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Christmas concert of the week: Long, Long Ago, Messe de Minuit pour Noel, University of York Choir & Baroque Ensemble, Central Hall, University of York, Wednesday, 7.30pm
UNIVERSITY of YorkChoir & Baroque Ensemble are joined by The 24 for a Christmas concert of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit for voices, strings and flutes, Howells’ four jazz-inflected Carol Anthems and Bo Holten’s First Snow.
Director Robert Hollingworth also will be donning his dressing gown for a reading of Dylan Thomas’s magical A Child’s Christmas In Wales. “All in all, it’s a strange alchemic mix but we know it works!” he says. “Trust us – and come and have your first mince pie of the season.” Box office: yorkconcerts.co.uk.
Yorkshire welcome back of the week: Aladdin, Harrogate Theatre, until January 15 2023
MICHAEL Lambourne, the booming-voiced thespian who needs no introduction to York Theatre Royal audiences, can probably be heard all the way from York when he plays the evil ABBAnazar in his Harrogate Theatre pantomime debut.
Lambourne joins daft lad Tim Stedman’s Wishee Washee and fellow Harrogate panto returnees Christina Harris(Princess Jasmine), Colin Kiyani (Aladdin) and Howard Chadwick, back on spa-town dame duty, as Widow Twankey, for the first time since Snow White in 2019. Ebony Feare’s Genie and Stephanie Costi’s Pandora the Panda are the new faces in Marcus Romer’s cast. Box office: 01423 502116 or harrogatetheatre.co.uk.
Putting the Pan into pantomime: All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, York Theatre Royal, December 2 to January 2 2023
CBEEBIES favourite Maddie Moate and three stars of last year’s Cinderella – Faye Campbell, Paul Hawkyard and Robin Simpson – fly into action for York Theatre Royal’s third collaboration with Evolution Productions.
Moate plays naughty fairy Tinkerbell, Campbell, Elizabeth Darling, Hawkyard, Captain Hook and Simpson, Mrs Smee, joined by Jason Battersby’s Peter Pan and Jonny Weldon’s pirate Starkey in creative director Juliet Forster’s production, scripted by Evolution’s Paul Hendy. Look out for acrobats Mohammed Iddi, Karina Ngade and Mbaraka Omari too. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Jools et Jim show: Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, with Vic Reeves, York Barbican, Thursday, 7.30pm
ON the back of notching the 30th anniversary of his Later…With Jools Holland shows on BBC Two, the boogie-wooogie piano man joins up with fellow Squeeze alumnus Gilson Lavis, vocalists Ruby Turner and Louise Marshall and his exuberant big band.
The special-guest star turn goes to comedian, artist and chart-topping all-round performer Vic Reeves (aka Jim Moir), Holland’s Leeds-born podcast partner on Jools & Jim’s Joyride, fresh from his Yorkshire Rocks & Dinghy Fights exhibition at RedHouse Originals, Harrogate. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Looking and booking ahead: Diversity: Supernova, York Barbican, March 7 and 8 2024
LONDON street dance troupe Diversity’s 66-date Supernova tour to 40 cities and towns in 2023-2024 will take in a return to York.
Winners of the third series of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, Ashley Banjo’s dancers will be switching to the Grand Opera House from York Barbican, where they presented Connected, a show full of playful, comedic routines with powerful statements on human connectivity, in April this spring. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.
REHEARSALS for All New Adventures Of Peter Pan will start on November 7 but already York Theatre Royal’s cast members have met up to launch the third pantomime collaboration with Evolution Productions.
In attendance for a photo-session and chat over sandwiches and brownies were Paul Hawkyard and Robin Simpson, last year’s award-nominated ugly sister double act Manky and Mardy; Faye Campbell, their fellow returnee from Cinderella, and two faces new to the Theatre Royal panto ranks, CBeebies’ Maddie Moate and Jason Battersby, promoted from Lead Shadow in Wendy And Peter at Leeds Playhouse last Christmas to Peter Pan this winter.
Absent that day was Jonny Weldon, a comedy video-making social media sensation with a “little part” in House Of The Dragon, who will play Starkey.
Hawkyard and Simpson had just finished Harrogate Theatre’s HT Rep season of three plays in three weeks, Simpson appearing in all three, Abigail’s Party, Gaslight and Men Of The World; Hawkyard in the first and last.
“Robin and I have worked together before, for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in York, sharing a dressing room from the day we started. We get on well, we have a laugh, and it’ll be great working with my mate again,” says Paul, who is delighted to be playing Captain Hook.
“As soon as I found out they were doing Peter Pan here, I really wanted the part because he’s one of the all-time best baddies.”
Tall, imposing, but naturally comedic too, Paul is playing around with ideas, probably not entirely seriously. “I’m going to switch the hook from arm to arm, to see if anyone notices!” he says.
Rather more definitely, he adds: “There’ll be lots of comedy opportunities together with Robin.”
Maddie chips in: “I think people just enjoy seeing friendships, partnerships, on stage. People like that familiarity in panto.” Faye concurs: “If we’re having fun, the audience will have fun too.”
Robin may have worked flat out on HT Rep, rehearsing the next play from Wednesday to Saturday in the daytime before performing in the evening, but he has had no time to rest. Already he is hitting his straps in rehearsals at the Central Methodist Church for David Reed’s play Guy Fawkes ahead of its York Theatre Royal premiere from October 28 to November 12.
Come panto-time, he will be playing Mrs Smee, effectively the dame’s role in these All New Adventures, written by Evolution’s Paul Hendy and directed by Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster.
Not Mrs Darling, Robin? “As far as I’m aware, I’ll be Mrs Smee, though there’s still time to change that! The character is normally Smee, the pirate, Hook’s mate. Now it will be Mrs Smee and a sidekick, Starkey.”
Like Simpson, Faye Campbell will be completing a hattrick of Theatre Royal-Evolution pantos after her fairy in 2020’s Travelling Panto and title role in 2021’s Cinderella. “I’m playing Emily, who’s Wendy’s daughter, so it’s moved on in time from J M Barrie’s original story. Now it’s Emily who goes on the adventures, after hearing of the story of Peter Pan from her mother,” she says.
Maddie Moate, who follows Andy Day from the CBeebies team into the Theatre Royal panto, says: “For those who love the traditional story of Peter Pan, you will still meet Peter Pan, Hook, the Lost Boys, the crocodile. They won’t be disappointed. It will all be instantly recognisable,” she says.
“I’ll be playing Tinkerbell, after I played Fairy Phoenix, the good fairy, at Leicester De Montford Hall last year, who was a bit of a nerd, a fairy in training!”
Jason Battersby took a deep dive into JM Barrie’s world when researching his role as Lead Shadow at Leeds Playhouse. “I love the book and the way you can tell it’s written for children but from an intellectual viewpoint,” he says, as he turns his attention to leading the Theatre Royal show as Peter Pan. “It’s almost like it was written by an incredibly clever child.
“As I know from last year, there are so many different ways to tell the story, and it’s one of those stories where you can really bring your own thing to it. All New Adventures Of Peter Pan is completely different from Wendy And Peter. Different theatrical conventions. Different songs. Different characters.
“There’s a line in the book that says Peter Pan takes children who die to Neverland, so there are darker elements to him, but he’s never a character who’s set in stone. There are suggestions in the book, so you can play him dark, or you can play him for his childish, playful qualities, but, yes, he has some demons.
“Sometimes, some of those darker elements are not the ones you want to put in, and certainly I don’t want to play sad Peter Pan. That would be the wrong choice.”
All New Adventures Of Peter Pan will run at York Theatre Royal from December 2 to January 2 2023. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
“SOCIAL media sensation” Jonny Weldon is the latest addition to York Theatre Royal’s pantomime cast for All New Adventures Of Peter Pan.
Although he would if he could, he can’t say too much about his character other than his name – Starkey – because writer Paul Hendy is working on the script.
“I know Paul quite well and have worked with him before,” says Jonny. “I don’t doubt we’ll sit down soon and work out the character.”
He can reveal little about his imminent television role too. “It’s very frustrating. I’m not allowed to tweet about it,” explains the actor and sketch humorist, whose videos went viral on Twitter.
He does confirm he will be appearing in the highly anticipated Game Of Thrones spin-off House Of The Dragon, but the series is being kept a closely guarded secret in the run-up to the first episode premiering on August 22 on Sky.
Jonny has “a little part” in the series but that is all he is saying. Even his character is a mystery, although rumoured to be called Samwell.
This summer, he can be found playing one half of Cruella de Ville’s comic henchman double act Casper and Jasper in a musical version of 101 Dalmatians at Regents Park Open Air Theatre in London.
July’s record-temperature heatwave took its toll on performers acting outdoors under the sun. “It was far too hot!” says Jonny. “We were doing shows with heat spaces for ice packs and dressers throwing cold water over us to cool us down.”
Nevertheless, doing the show has been “interesting but fun”. “I’ve never worked before at Regents Park, which is just down the road from where I live. It’s nice to work near where you live. It’s a big family show and that kind of theatre is great to do,” he says.
Jonny, who has 16 years in the business to his name, owes his entry into performing to his parents. Not that he had a stereotypical pushy stage mother. “I was a terrible show-off and my mum decided to see if she could harness my need to show off,” he recalls. “She took me to a big national audition – and I got the part.”
At the age of 11, Jonny had landed the role of Michael Banks, one of the children under the care of a flying nanny in the stage musical version of Mary Poppins.
Another West End musical role followed: Gavroche, the boy who dies on the barricade in Les Miserables. Next stop was the National Theatre for Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner’s musical, Caroline, Or Change. Soon a place at the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School, in Marble Arch, was his.
His local paper wrote a story championing his acting success with the headline Well Done, Weldon! “I loved doing Mary Poppins. I found school boring and it meant I didn’t have to go into school,” Jonny says.
“At that point, I didn’t really have a real understanding of what I was doing. It was just play and fun. I got to die on the barricade [in Les Miserables] – what kid doesn’t like a gory death?
“At no point have I found what I’m doing strange or lost my enthusiasm for performing. I’ve always enjoyed it. There are ups and downs but I’ve never found myself wanting to do anything else.”
Jonny has done theatre aplenty but the past two years have seen him branch out into television with roles in Stephen Merchant’s BBC One series The Outlaws, Channel 4’s Stath Lets Flats and now House Of The Dragon.
Along the way, he has become, more by accident than design, a “social media sensation”, on account of a succession of viral videos on Twitter. “As with every actor, I was bored and fed up in the lockdowns and decided to create my own sketches about the uphill battle of the life of an actor,” says Jonny.
“I didn’t do much on social before but decided to put it on Twitter. 100,000 people watched and shared and laughed.
“This week I put one out about the Edinburgh Fringe. There are always things like that – an actor has an audition, an actor gets cut from a TV programme or an actor tries to socialise.
“I started to film ones on Zoom with celebrities coming in to play themselves. The likes of Russell Tovey, Tracy-Ann Oberman, the cast of Ted Lasso. It’s just been a very fun and unexpected thing.”
Jonny will carry on making videos but, given that he is busy with work, he will do it “as and when I want to”. Long term, he hopes to work on “something bigger than just social media”, explaining: “I want to try and create my own stuff and a vehicle for myself in television. I write relentlessly and am constantly trying to make bigger work for myself and having meetings about that.”
After 101 Dalmatians concludes, he will film a TV show, and once more he has to be hush-hush over what lies in store. “I’ll probably be in trouble if I say anything as I don’t think the show is going out until next year,” he reasons.
Come November, Jonny will start rehearsals for creative director Juliet Forster’s third York Theatre Royal pantomime, All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, joining the already confirmed Maddie Moate, from CBeebies, and three returnees Faye Campbell, Robin Simpson and Paul Hawkyard. The actor playing Peter Pan will be announced next.
Playing Starkey will be Jonny’s latest panto credit after such roles as Will Scarlett in Robin Hood, Jack in Jack And The Beanstalk and Muddles in Snow White twice. Add to that a week in Canterbury in the comic role after an asbestos-related problem forced his show at St Albans Arena to close mid-season. But that’s another story.
Jonny Weldon will star in All New Adventures Of Peter Pan at York Theatre Royal from December 2 to January 2 2023. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Follow Jonny on Twitter: @jonnyyweldon
AND then there were three. Not only the already confirmed Faye Campbell will be returning to the York Theatre Royal pantomime but so too will Robin Simpson and Paul Hawkyard, the award-nominated Ugly Sisters double act from Cinderella.
Completing his hattrick of Theatre Royal pantos after 2020’s The Travelling Pantomime and 2021-2022’s Cinders, Simpson will play Mrs Smee – effectively the dame role – while Hawkyard will take to the dark side as the villainous Captain Hook.
Calls aplenty had grown for Simpson and Hawkyard’s pantomime chemistry to be sparked up anew in the third Theatre Royal and Evolution Productions collaboration, particularly after their riotous sisterly double act as Manky and Mardy in Cinderella was nominated for Best Ugly Sisters in the 2022 UK Pantomime Association’s Pantomime Awards.
Glory be, they will be reunited in creative director Juliet Forster’s production of All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, performing once more alongside Campbell, last winter’s Cinderella.
Hawkyard, who previously showed York his Bottom in Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Eye of York in 2018, is chuffed to have hooked the role of Hook. “Robin and I kept getting mobbed last year in York, so we’ve had to change our identity this year. Manky and Mardy are back in the wardrobe, and the hook is being sharpened and polished as we speak,” he said.
“I’m so looking forward to playing one of the most famous and evil villains ever – the tall, dark and incredibly handsome Captain Hook, the original pirate king.”
Simpson added: “I’m delighted to be returning to York Theatre Royal for my third pantomime there. I’m also very excited to be back on stage with Paul Hawkyard. He’s a very funny guy and I’m so glad that my ‘sister’ from last year is able to return. Can’t wait.”
Simpson first gave York his Dame in The Travelling Pantomime, touring to community venues in multiple York wards for socially distanced performance in December 2020, before turning Ugly in Cinderella.
He and Hawkyard previously worked together in both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre’s first year in York.
In late-March, book in hand at first, he stepped into the melancholic role of Jacques at very short notice in Northern Broadsides’ York Theatre Royal run of As You Like It, later filling in for Covid-enforced cast absences in further dates on the tour.
Previously he toured the country with the Halifax company as Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing. Hawkyard, meanwhile, has been filming the new series of Channel 5’s All Creatures Great And Small, set in Yorkshire.
Campbell starred in The Travelling Pantomime tour as The Hero and Dick Whittington, then took on the title role in Cinderella last winter. Come December, she will be Elizabeth Darling in All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, scripted by Evolution Productions’ co-founder, Paul Hendy.
Joining Campbell, Simpson and Hawkyard will be CBeebies’ favourite Maddie Moate, the first name out of the panto hat, who will be flying into the Theatre Royal to play mischievous fairy Tinkerbell in the family-friendly pantomime adventure.
Creative director Juliet Forster said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome back Robin, Paul and Faye for this year’s pantomime. They were all hugely popular with our audiences in Cinderella last year and we can’t wait for them to return to our stage in these fabulous new roles.”
Further casting will be revealed in coming months, first up the imminent announcement of who will be Peter Pan.
All New Adventures Of Peter Pan will run from December 2 2022 to January 2 2023. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
CBEEBIES’ favourite Maddie Moate is the first signing for this winter’s York Theatre Royal pantomime, All New Adventures Of Peter Pan.
Award-winning television presenter and You Tuber Maddie will be starring as feisty favourite Tinkerbell in creative director Juliet Forster’s production from December 2 2022 to January 2 2023.
Further casting will be announced in the coming months for the Theatre Royal’s third pantomime in partnership with Evolution Productions, after 2020’s Travelling Pantomime and last winter’s Cinderella, a show that featured another CBeebies’ star, Andy Day, and was nominated for Best Pantomime (500-900 seat category) at the UK Pantomime Association’s Pantomime Awards.
Maddie has presented the BBC’s CBeebies series Do You Know? since 2016, exploring the secret workings of everyday objects and winning the 2017 Best Presenter category at the BAFTA Children’s Awards to boot.
In addition, she has starred in the CBeebies Proms Live at the Royal Albert Hall, London, and multiple CBeebies Christmas Shows and presented the CBeebies Ballet. Elsewhere, she has hosted CBBC’s Show Me Honey, the BBC’s Springwatch Academy and CNBC’s The Cloud Challenge.
Maddie has her own science and technology You Tube channel, wherein she takes her worldwide family audience on educational adventures and inspires them to “stay curious”. Latterly, her channel has been home to Let’s Go Live! With Maddie And Greg, her daily science show for families.
She presents and makes films for educational You Tube channels, including Fully Charged, focusing on electric vehicles and future energy, and BBC Earth’s Unplugged, where she investigates the quirks of our planet. She also appears on stage in her live science and wildlife shows for families and children.
Maddie is a patron of the Youth Stem Awards (YSA) and an ambassador for Eureka, the National Children’s Museum, in Halifax.
Welcoming Maddie to the Theatre Royal pantomime, director Juliet Forster says: “I’m delighted to be working with such a talented and much-loved CBeebies presenter. I know she will bring plenty of magic to our pantomime.”
Tickets are on sale on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.