He has had a long association with the role of Old Deuteronomy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. He moved to Old Town in Eastbourne 5 years ago, having lived in Spain for 9 years where he was the founder of vocal harmony group Tres Divos and hosted his own weekly radio show The Sound of Musicals on Talk Radio Europe.
Nicholas shares his thoughts....
"Well, we did it. The show did go on. Through a combination of forward planning, determination, creativity and the whole Devonshire Park Theatre team pulling together but against tremendous adversity, we managed to complete the Eastbourne panto run of Sleeping Beauty without any cancelled performances. A miraculous achievement in itself compared with other less fortunate panto productions around the country that either had to lose performances or shut down completely.
Did we escape the clutches of that panto baddie, Omicron? Of course not. Like most stories, it all started very positively (and I don’t mean that in a lateral flow test result way!). Once upon a time, back in rehearsals, we all stayed healthy and Covid-negative, but then inevitably, after Christmas, just like in the pantomime ghost gag, Omicron began to scare off the cast one by one and numbers on stage began to dwindle.
Chris Jordan, our producer/director, (like most other panto producers) had had the foresight to employ a collection of ‘floating’ understudies who might be ready to step in to various roles in any of his 8 different pantomimes around the country. And boy oh boy were they needed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have stand-ins for our wonderfully talented dancing ensemble, and at one point, all 6 of our dancers were absent….but still the show went on! With a few changes and cuts, and some unexpected appearances by the backstage crew, amazingly we still managed to present our packed houses with a good, fun-filled and magical show. Pantomime is the type of entertainment, at least, where you can make light of the unexpected and react spontaneously to last minute changes. I mean, it’s not like Ibsen, where you have to stick firmly to the script. Letters and emails testify to the fact that audiences enjoyed themselves immensely, and of course, the most important thing is to allow the audience to feel included in the on stage changes and antics. In my experience, audiences love it when something goes wrong in the theatre – after all, they’re witnessing a unique performance that nobody else will see, a story to tell their friends.
I myself succumbed to Omicron, as did Martyn Knight, Eastbourne’s favourite Dame who has never missed a pantomime performance in 25 years. Under normal circumstances, I could easily have still performed as I wasn’t that sick, but the Covid rules stated that I had to self isolate for at least a week. Of the 13 original cast members, only 3 survived without catching Covid.
Our story though does end happily ever after, as we had a complete company for our last 4 performances. By the end of the final show, we were all quite emotional, relieved and ecstatic knowing that against all the odds, we’d been able every afternoon and evening, for 52 performances to take our audience on a fun-filled escape from the worries and woes of Covid, Brexit, politics and British weather. Sleeping Beauty was the Christmas tonic that we all needed in Eastbourne this year. It did exactly what it said on the tin, and I’m thankful to have been part of it.