Martyn makes it 18 pantos in Eastbourne

Until last year Martyn Knight had done 17 successive pantomimes in Eastbourne. Now he is delighted finally to be back to do his 18th.

Martyn Knight
Martyn Knight

The panto is Sleeping Beauty at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre from December 10-January 9.

Once again he will be in the dame role, once again teaming up with his good friend Tucker in the comedy role.

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“I am just 100 per cent pleased to be working. It was so strange last year. I wasn’t able to do anything at all. I didn’t work for 15 months. Good job I had some money saved up!

“I don’t just perform. I direct and choreograph amateur companies and it was literally the dress rehearsal for Priscilla in Stoke. I go all over the country. I was literally lighting Priscilla when Boris said about the lockdown and they pulled it there and then. I just went back home, and like all of us I was just thinking it would be a couple of weeks. I never thought that the weeks would turn into months and that the months would turn into years. Fortunately, the government did help with the self-employment grants but not straight away. I was grateful I had some money saved up.

“But the strangest thing was not being in Eastbourne at Christmas where I had been for the past 17 years. It has come to be really like a home from home for me.

“I was working for (panto producer) Chris Jordan in Potters Bar. I played dame for him and I did that for four years.

“Long story short, in 1990 I decided to come out of the business. I was doing Sleeping Beauty in Plymouth and I thought that I had had enough of it. I thought I would get a proper job which didn’t last long! Seven years later (panto producer) Chris Jordan asked me if I fancied doing ugly sister in Potters Bar. I had been working as an estate agent and then other jobs, but my mum passed away in 97 and I thought she had never really done everything that she wanted to do. I didn’t want to have any regrets so I thought I would get back into the business and do that panto and I ended up doing four years in Potters Bar and then I came to Eastbourne.

“And I love being here. It’s a great town and everybody loves the theatre. In any other town I go out and nobody knows who the hell I am but if I go out in Eastbourne some people will recognise me – even without the costume!”

The great advantage of being a panto regular in one particular location, especially with a fellow regular in the cast, is not having to start from scratch: “It’s working with Tucker for a start. We’ve done nine years together, I think. We go on and we know each other, how we perform on stage, and if he wants to ad lib I can let him.

“It’s knowing the other performers that you are working with. He’s like my son in many ways. I don’t have any children but he is like the son I have never had and we have just got the chemistry together. And I think that’s really important. If you don’t get on on stage then I think that would travel over the footlights and the audience would know.

“And actually, it’s almost embarrassing that I’m getting paid to do this here, doing something that I absolutely adore doing. And for me it’s a massive bonus, the people that I’m working with. There are always people coming back that I’ve worked with before and it’s lovely and the brilliant thing is that Chris Jordan always gets together a cast that just gels and that’s really important too.”