Pompey panto legend delighted to be back on the stage

With his role as artistic director at Southsea’s Kings Theatre, Jack Edwards doesn’t get the chance to perform so very often these days: “I am more often the other side of the table.”
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But there's one thing that will always get him back on the boards and that's panto, this year playing Mrs Smee in Hook – The Further Adventures of Peter Pan from December 1-31.

“I'm so excited to be back again. This is my eighth year. I will always do panto and this is my sixth as dame, and it’s really exciting to be doing this one because I don't think we've ever done Peter Pan or Hook before.

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“This is Hook - The Further Adventures. It is what happens afterwards, the sequel to Peter Pan. Yes, Hook did get eaten by a crocodile at the end of Peter Pan but this is like EastEnders or like Bobby Ewing in Dallas. Captain Hook gets to come back. And we are so lucky to have Shaun Williamson (best known for his stint as EastEnders’ loveable Barry) to play Hook.

The company - pic by Aaron CockramThe company - pic by Aaron Cockram
The company - pic by Aaron Cockram

“Things have moved on. Wendy is now a young woman. But there are some things that we can't have like the Indian encampment – just for PC reasons. I do think you have to filter things a little bit – especially if you were doing Aladdin. That's the panto the producers are really scared of these days, worried about causing offence. But I do think you should do it as long as you do it in the right way and cast it properly, but it’s an interesting concept. I think in panto these days you have to be generally a little bit more focused on what you can say and what you can't say. You can't just talk about that fat bloke or about that fat kid or about a thin person or colour or whatever.”

But maybe there's more latitude if you're talking about yourself. Jack loves to advertise himself as “a fat bloke in a dress” and will continue to do so.

“But the lovely thing about this one is that we can really focus on the character of Hook. We have written it in a way that is all about Hook’s life with everybody else around it. It's nice to have a bit of a refresh to the story and once we had cast Shaun we were just very conscious of who Shaun is. We felt we could use the fact that he was in EastEnders and is known to so many people as Barry. It just felt good to change it all up a little bit but still obviously have the characters that you know.”

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For Jack another big part of the pleasure is taking to the stage at a crucial time of year for the theatre: “Panto is so important to us. It's the lifeline of the theatre. This is our biggest show of the year even though we are putting on bigger and better musicals as well now but this really is the big one for us and I just love it. I've always loved panto. It's just fantastic to see all the kids and the adults and all of them having the time of their lives and everyone laughing together. It's just magic.”

The swashbuckling cast is rounded off by Kings Theatre favourites Julia Worsley, Georgia Deloise and Elizabeth Rose.

Tickets from the Kings box office.