Steve Royle Q&A #GRANDpanto
An interview with our pantomime favourite Steve Royle who will be playing Buttons in this year’s Cinderella.
Q: After fifteen years of doing panto, what keeps you coming back?
Steve Royle: Three kids, three daughters to be more precise. If I didn’t have the pantomime I think one of them would have to go without shoes for a full twelve months. No, you don’t need to ask me that question, I love it. It’s the most beautiful theatre. I have toured up and down the country, supporting various acts and doing shows of my own and I have yet to enter a theatre that is as beautiful as The Grand. I was talking to Melanie (The Fairy God Mother) earlier and saying that in rehearsals you don’t get a chance to be bored, because you can just stare at the ceiling and get lost in it. I studied history at university so for me that kind of stuff is in my blood. I love anything historical and I can feel it in this building when I walk in.
Q: What is your best panto moment?
Steve Royle: I enjoy anything spontaneous. Those are the bits you tend to remember and it’s usually involving the children. I remember this one particular kid from a few years ago who, when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas said, “wood”. I thought he meant a carpentry set or something like that so I tried to get more detail from the lad but he genuinely said, “I just want some wood”. So I’m thinking “what? Just a piece of 4 by 2 or something like that?” So in the meantime, whilst he was doing his little bit, I went into the wings and I asked the crew to find me a piece of wood. They bring me one and then I presented him with it at the very end. He walked off stage with his eyes lit up, Christmas had come early for that kid.
Q: What about your worst panto mishap?
Steve Royle: In terms of things going wrong, I remember a few years ago one of the dancers was in a huge mummy costume and we are doing that, “He’s behind you” bit where he has to run off stage quickly. So we are shouting to the audience, “Oh no he isn’t” and the audience just keep shouting “Oh yes he is”. Next thing, I look to my right and realised that this guy with a big costume head couldn’t find his way off of the stage. I see this giant mummy with his hands reached out desperately trying to find his way off of the stage, fall. He falls all the way down the steps and into the audience. By this point we were just in stitches we had lost it by then totally.
Q: Is pantomime something you had envisioned yourself doing before you started?
Steve Royle: I always remember going to see Lenny Henry in pantomime as a kid and I was so excited sitting there and thinking “I want to do that, I really want to do that”. When working at Camelot theme park, the whole time I was there I knew that panto was perfect for my persona and skills with the juggling and everything. It was actually Duggie Chapman who finally gave me my break into panto. Sadly he died this year so I’ll be thinking about him as I go on stage. He had faith in me from the beginning and I have not looked back since, fifteen years on and I still love it. I would love to be doing it for another fifteen years.
Q: If you had your own Fairy God Mother and one wish, what would it be?
Steve Royle: Without being really corny and saying health and happiness for my children, I would have to say I have always wanted the ability to fly. I would fly over football stadiums watch football matches for free, you know nothing too outrageous.
Q: What is your favourite thing about Christmas?
Steve Royle: Pantomime, it would be daft for me to say anything else. It does help you get into the Christmas spirit early. We are forced to feel Christmassy in the last week of November. But I do love Christmas day and Christmas dinner. For the first time ever we actually hosted the family last year we had a big Christmas dinner and it was great.
Q: What is the best Christmas gift you have ever received?
Steve Royle: I remember when I was little I really wanted a Subbuteo (I look at Steve blankly and he explains to me what a Subbuteo is). It was a table football game where you flicked the players. Well anyway, my mum kept saying to me, “Do not set that up on the front room floor, it will get trodden on”. So obviously I set it up on the living room floor and what happens? It gets trodden on.
Q: Who do you think is the best pantomime villain?
Steve Royle: The Ugly Sisters are always a good one because you’re getting comedy with the character. Also, they’re just so horrible. Other pantomime villains seem to have an agenda, there’s always something they’re trying to achieve but The Ugly Sisters just aim their hatred directly to Cinderella so there’s a real nastiness and bullying about those two. Taz and Jamie do such a good job of it too, it’s such a difficult one to get across in pantomime. You have got to have people on your side making them laugh, but you also need to get those “Booooo’s” from the audience.
Q: What gets you the best reaction from the audience?
Steve Royle: I said it earlier it’s the kids, it’s always the kids. The improvised stuff at the end which I love doing where we get the kids up on stage is always popular. It is so unpredictable and different every single night. I usually do a juggling spot or the ping pong ball juggling with my mouth and that always goes down really well. I have to say though the kids always steal the show. We get a cast together, rehearse for weeks and some kid comes on with a snotty nose and up stages you in the last five minutes and you think, “Was it all really worth it?”
Interview by Grand Young Journalist: Bethany Easton
Cinderella is presented by Martin Dodd for UK Productions whom have been presenting the Christmas pantomime at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre since 2003. Other productions presented at The Grand by UK Productions include; Legally Blonde the Musical, Beauty and the Beast, The Kite Runner, 42nd Street, South Pacific, Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Anything Goes.
Cinderella plays at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Tuesday 5 December 2017 to Sunday 7 January 2018 starring popular children’s presenter Olivia Birchenough (Milkshake!) as Cinderella, Union J’s JJ Hamblett (The X Factor) as the dashing Prince Charming; BBC Radio Lancashire presenter and madcap comic Steve Royle as Buttons; celebrated stage and TV star Melanie Walters (Gavin & Stacey) as Fairy Godmother and hilarious double act Jamie Morris & Tarot Joseph as the Ugly Sisters.
Book your seats today, otherwise not even your Fairy Godmother will be able to magic you a ticket to see Blackpool’s must-see Christmas show…
Tickets are available by clicking here or by calling the box office on 01253 290190.