Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Behind you! Jack and Jill can’t wait to get cracking

THE great thing about pantomime is the sense of anticipation that the actors feel about their

THE great thing about pantomime is the sense of anticipation that the actors feel about their roles. You sense they are determined to have as much fun as their audiences.

That is certainly the case with Robin Hemmings and Hannah Pritchard who are playing Jack and Jill In the Kenton’s panto Jack and the Beanstalk.

It will be a first appearance on the stage at Henley for both of them and the first time they have worked together. They have their scripts and are soon to go into rehearsal.

“I can’t wait to start,” says Robin. “I have never done a panto before so it is something special. I have done a lot of family theatre, but a panto is different.

“Everyone must have an enthusiasm for the show — in a panto you can’t switch off and coast and you have to be on your toes the whole time. There will be that special moment when you have them in the palm of your hand and that is the most electrifying thing ever, especially with a panto audience, which is such a variety of ages. But that doesn’t matter — it is a shared moment for everyone.

“The audience are the other half of the cast — their enjoyment, their response is so important.”

A pantomime is a test for abilities of the cast, who all have to sing and dance.

“I am Fred Astaire and Billie Holiday mixed together,” jokes Robin, who trained at the Oxford School of Drama and has an impressive CV that includes appearances at the Bristol Old Vic and a spell in the legendary production of The Mousetrap at St Martin’s Theatre in the West End.

He is looking forward to the Kenton, he says. “It is really beautiful — nice and intimate. The perfect setting for a pantomime.”

Robin is currently working on a one-man storytelling show which will he will debut in Oxford at the end of the month. It bears the intriguing title The Tale of the Salesman and the Parrot.

For her part, Hannah is something of an old hand at pantomime — even though she’s only 26.

Born in Gloucestershire, she graduated from Reynolds Performing Arts in Kent in 2011. And while she has not performed with any of her fellow cast members before, panto director Ian McFarlane was one of her tutors at college.

“I guess if he tells me I am doing something wrong I can say ‘It’s all your fault!’ ” she jokes.

Hannah’s previous pantomime work includes Wendy in Peter Pan in Weymouth, Alice Fitzgerald in Dick Whittington in Solihull, and Goldilocks in Goldilocks and The Three Bears in Coleraine.

“I am really looking forward to it,” she says. “Funnily enough, my first part in a pantomime was in an amateur dramatics production of Jack and the Beanstalk when I was 17 or 18 and I played the part of Jack.

“My love of acting came from my sister when I saw her performing in a panto and just followed her. I auditioned but did not get the part — then someone dropped out and I was in.”

Of such pieces of luck are careers made. Her family will make the journey from Gloucestershire to see Hannah, who adds: “They are always really supportive of what I do.”

Her days at present are long while she works on a secret film project. “I really can’t say what it is.”

But the excitement is building ahead of her stint as Jill at the Kenton.

“I love panto. For me it is the perfect thing to get the Christmas spirit going. And I love working for children — I do children’s parties. I had never been to Henley before, but the theatre is the perfect size for the sort of panto we are putting on. I can’t wait.”

Jack and the Beanstalk runs from December 17 to 27. For ticket information and to book, visit www. or call the box office on (01491) 575698. The box office in New Street is open from 11am to 3pm on weekdays and from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays.

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