Delighted to make Worthing hometown panto debut

Ross Muir is delighted to make his home-town panto debut as Professor Crackpot in Beauty and the Beast at Worthing’s Pavilion Theatre.

Ross Muir
Ross Muir

The cast features Britain’s Got Talent winner Jai McDowall as the Beast, alongside Emmerdale actress Sapphire Elia as Belle and Strictly Come Dancing’s Robin Windsor in the role of Gaston (until January 2).

Ross, who runs his own theatre company Conn Artists, said: “I have always wanted to do panto for years in Worthing. I did get to do ASM and understudy in Worthing for panto in the late 90s but I never not got to go on. It’s my hometown and I just thought it would be a lot of fun at Christmas and it’s just a change from doing Shakespeare and also the plays that I do with my own theatre company. They say a change is as good as a rest.

“I used to do panto for Rainbow Theatre when they did schools pantos and it would just be a four-hander and very minimal sets and just props and costumes really. They were about an hour long and always involved the children. But this is my first time on the big stage doing panto.

“I left Worthing theatres in the February before we had the first lockdown. I was programming with Amanda (O’Reilly, CEO of Worthing Theatres and Museum), booking the shows and dealing with the contracts. But I wanted to get back to being an actor and being a creative full time and to give more time to my own company Conn Artists.

“I left to go back to being a freelance creative but my parting shot was to say to Amanda ‘Any chance you could get me an audition for the panto?’ Amanda said ‘I will see what I can do’ and she managed to set up an audition. It should have been last year. They asked me to do a self-tape interview. They sent me some script from the show and I had to film it on my phone and email it to them and they said ‘Great, if we are able to do it, then you have got a job.’ But of course it didn’t happen. That was last year but now it’s great that we can.

“I am playing Professor Crackpot who is Belle’s father. He is a crazy inventor coming up with crazy inventions. It will be great fun. I always remember going to the Connaught for panto when I was younger and I have missed the pantos at the Connaught but it’s very difficult having two theatres and trying to make two pantos work.

“I think panto is very important. It’s the tradition. It goes a long way back and you can trace it back to commedia dell’arte and through France and England. It’s the magic. It’s the fairy tales. You are always captivated by fairy tales and there is always a positive message to them and I think we need that in this era when we’ve had a lot of darkness and gloom.

“And I think it’s going to be electric. We missed a year. It’s about the social interaction within the community and not just between the audience and the actors. It’s audience members with other audience members and really it just has such a big positive effect on people. It’s for everyone.

“There are bound to be some people that are going to be nervous but I think if you are that nervous you won’t come out to the theatre. I think the difficulty is the mixed messages that we are getting, but it’s going to be quite interesting for us. We are having to do a test every other day and you’re thinking what if it is positive! You’ve got to keep hoping.

“But overall this year has been a good year for me, I think. I was very lucky to do Pinocchio back in May half term. There was no summer Shakespeare. We were not quite ready but I got to go on the road with my own theatre company which was really interesting, going to other regional theatres and seeing which ones are doing well at getting audiences back and which ones are perhaps rather slower.”; 01903 206206.