Pantomime star and stand-up comedian Steve Royle will celebrate 1,000 pantomime performances in this year’s Sleeping Beauty at Blackpool Grand Theatre.
The former finalist in ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent will star as Silly Billy in this year’s festive tale
"My first panto as the Grand was Peter Pan with Maureen Nolan in 2002" says Steve. “As long as I can remember my eldest daughter’s birthday then I can remember what year I did my first panto at The Grand, because she was just 10 months old and learned to walk in the narrow corridors outside the dressing rooms holding on to the walls for support. I’ve held on to those same walls for support during after show parties many times since!”
Which is his favourite panto character? “I’ve always loved playing Buttons, because he plays such a major part in the pantomime and requires some proper acting during the lovely pathos scenes. But playing Smee alongside my good friend Tom Lister as Captain Hook in Peter Pan has certainly provided me most laughs.
“I have so many favourite memories to choose from. Some of the funniest moments have come from the kids we’ve had on stage during the song sheet. I will always remember the child who said they wanted a remote-control submarine for Christmas. I couldn’t help saying “you’re going to be crying at the side of a lake on Boxing Day with your dad shouting 'I told you not to press dive!' I also love a ballet lesson scene I wrote for Cinderella many years ago, which rates as one of the favourite scenes I’ve ever performed.” Steve has made his co-stars laugh along the way, and some have become firm friends: “I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing people,” he says. “Some have gone on to become close friends, like Tom Lister, Danny Miller, Amy Thompson and Hayley Kay. I recently went to Danny Miller's wedding, and it was wonderful to see him do so well and becoming King of the Castle on I’m a Celebrity... last year.
"I love panto for the same reasons Ken Dodd loved panto. It’s unique in the way it brings together all areas of the entertainment world. I get the chance to work with actors, dancers, singers, magicians and others, all with amazing lives and careers. We also get to perform for young people, who are often visiting the theatre for the first time. This can lead to a lifelong love of live entertainment.
"It’s such a pleasure when I meet people during the year and they tell me they have been watching me in panto all or most of their lives. It does, however, also make me feel old....”
Sleeping Beauty is at Blackpool Grand Theatre, December 2-January 1.
More info and tickets here