Here’s Jonny! Weldon joins York Theatre Royal pantomime adventure after landing hush-hush House Of The Dragon role

Jonny Weldon: York Theatre Royal pantomime debut as Starkey in All New Adventures Of Peter Pan

“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.”

Jonny Weldon: Actor, sketch humorist and pantomime star

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.

Jonny Weldon in the latest poster for York Theatre Royal’s All New Adventures Of Peter Pan

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 Follow Jonny on Twitter:  @jonnyyweldon

To Beale or not to Beale? What Adam Woodyatt’s doing away from EastEnders

Re-united: Adam Woodyatt and Laurie Brett go from husband and wife in EastEnders to husband and wife in Looking Good Dead

SOAP icon Adam Woodyatt, EastEnders’ longest-serving cast member, has taken to the stage in a play for the first time in 40 years.

After playing Ian Beale in the BBC series since 1985 – or about 1748, as he jokes – Adam is starring as Tom Bryce in Shaun McKenna’s world-premiere stage adaptation of Peter James’s crime thriller Looking Good Dead.

His next port of call from Tuesday will be the Grand Opera House, in York, in the wake of earlier conversions from page to stage of James’s Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series, The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple.

Welcome to York, Adam. “I was there last April actually, because I came up to see a friend. First time I’d been there,” he says. “What a lovely city…but sort your roadworks out!

“I went and did some cycling up there on the trans-Pennine route, and I went out and found some lovely woods over to the east of York. Really enjoyed it.”

Adam, 53, is on the second leg of a tour that began last July. “It’s been a lot of fun and we’re still having a lot of laughs,” he says. “You do always get a lot of dark humour out of situations in thrillers!

“As we’ve discovered, people laugh at the weirdest things. We’ll be thinking we’ll get a laugh out of them for something, then we don’t, but then they’ll laugh at something else and you think, ‘they laughed at that?’.”

No good deed goes unpunished in Looking Good Dead, where, hours after finding a discarded USB memory stick, Woodyatt’s Tom Bryce inadvertently becomes a witness to a vicious murder.

Reporting the crime to the police has disastrous consequences, placing him and his family in grave danger. When Detective Superintendent Roy Grace becomes involved, he has his own demons to contend with, while he tries to crack the case in time to save the Bryce family’s lives.

“Tom is a husband, a father, a businessman. It’s a very normal family unit,” says Adam. “The rowing husband and wife! The stroppy teenager! Everyone will be able to identity with that!

“When Tom finds the USB memory stick and tries to do a good deed, it sets off a chain of trouble for him.”

Cue the combination of dark humour and Peter James’s trademark thriller tension. “If you’ve got a comic on stage, he looks for laughs. In this show we’re trying to get gasps, the shock factor, and we do that,” says Adam.

Touching moment: Adam Woodyatt and Laurie Brett in Looking Good Dead

One component has changed since the first leg: Woodyatt is now playing opposite Laurie Brett, who just happened to play wife Jane to his Ian in the bickering Beale couple in EastEnders. “Gaynor Faye did the first leg up until November, but then she had another gig booked, and so Laurie has come in and she’s been brilliant to have in the show,” says Adam.

“It was great working with Gaynor, but there’s no denying there’s a connection with Laurie [who played long-suffering wife Jane from 2004 to 2017 in EastEnders]. Like when she looked in my eyes on stage as if to say, ‘well, that isn’t in the script’ when I’ve said my line!”

Adam recalls last being in a stage play in 1981. “It was On The Razzle at the National Theatre. Yes, I did have a career before soap – though I did start so young in EastEnders. I joined Sylvia Young’s [theatre school] at the age of nine in 1972 and I worked constantly until joining EastEnders in 1984 before the show opened in February 1985,” he says.

Adam, who was honoured in 2013 with the Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2015 with Best Actor at the British Soap Awards, has not cut his ties with the soap. “I haven’t left yet!” he protests.

Ah, but will he be back? “Look, it’s too many things. It isn’t just my decision. It’s their decision too. But there was never a case of ‘I’m leaving’ or ‘You’re leaving’. I just wanted to go off and do this play,” Adam explains.

“I fancied doing something different. Shane Ritchie said how much he’d enjoyed doing Peter James’s Not Dead Enough and The Perfect Murder. I’d looked at the possibility of doing The House On Cold Hill, and then this opportunity came up.”

Adam notes one contrast between working on stage and the small screen. “If you work in TV, you won’t find out if people like it until later, whereas in the theatre, the reaction is immediate,” he says.

“You don’t have a second take, so every show is slightly different, like when someone walks off stage before you deliver a line, or they use a slightly different intonation, or you do. That’s what makes every show unique – and I must admit I love it.

“We’ve had understudies throughout the tour [the ebb and flow of the actor’s Lateral Flow Test life in Covid times], and each actor’s tone or pace can be slightly different, so you have to react to that. That’s live theatre!”

EastEnders may be infamous for its suspenseful finale to each episode but Looking Good Dead has far more! “There are various cliffhanger moments throughout this play.  Several you can see coming; some you can’t. It’s fast paced; it’s entertaining. It’s like watching telly for two hours, but on a much wider screen!” says Adam.

Does he have unfulfilled stage ambitions? “I’ve done panto – the last one was at Swindon in 2019 – and it tends to be the more comical baddie that I play, there to have a laugh,” he says. “I keep offering to play dame, and one of these days, I hope they say ‘yes’,” he says.

“Maybe I could play Ugly Sister first. I’ve got someone in mind to do it with before they retire!”

Looking Good Dead runs at Grand Opera House, York, from March 29 to April 2. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at

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