“I can do it show after show for a month and that’s what I love.”
This year’s pantomime at the Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks boasts a host of firsts. Not only is it the first year the production will enjoy a four week run, with an extra week added due to popular demand, it is also the first time Magic Beans Productions has staged Aladdin and the first time that top of the bill Boyzone’s Shane Lynch has played the Villain.
Lynch’s pantomime career began in 2004 when he played the Prince in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Anita Dobson as the Wicked Queen and CBeebies favourite Justin Fletcher as Muddles. Since then Lynch has appeared all over the country in pantomime, but every time as the Prince and almost always in Snow White.
Magic Beans Productions Producer Jamie Alexander Wilson can’t understand why Lynch hasn’t played Villain before. “I mean, I look at Shane Lynch with his shaved head and tattoos and the big muscles and stuff and he just cries out like a modern panto Baddie,” he tells me. “When we offered it to him, he said no-one had ever offered it to him before and he’d love to give it a go. I think he’s going to be amazing.”
So is Lynch excited about his first Villain and the chance to play the wickedest wizard in the world?
“Abanazar’s not something I inherited in my own bones,” he says, “so it’s a character I need to conjure up. I think I’m going to have to speak with Jamie and get some interesting ways of character, characteristics, and I’m not too sure what to expect right now, so I need help!”
Although many pantomime performers make the transition from Villain to Dame, the move from male Principal Boy to Villain is almost unheard of. The two roles are polar opposites and I ask Lynch whether he’s prepared for a very different kind of audience reaction when he steps out on stage this year?
“I haven’t really given it much thought,” he says. “I want to make sure everyone in the theatre’s happy with how I’m playing a role. I just want to do a good job. I won’t worry about the boos until I’m doing a good job.”
Having never played Villain before, Lynch soon reveals that another first can be added to the Stag’s production. “I’ve never actually seen an Aladdin panto, believe it or not!” he admits. However, he has seen the Disney version many times as his daughter is “mad about the Aladdin DVD.” But what makes Aladdin such a great panto story and why does it remain so popular?
“I guess it’s the Baddie side of thing chasing the Goodies,” Lynch suggests. “And the magic carpet!”, which producer Wilson reveals will fly “out over the audience.”
With many seasons of pantomime behind him, I ask Lynch whether the run gets any easier with experience?
“It is still actually very tough for me,” he replies honestly. “Every year the phone call comes in and I think 'Yeah, let’s do it' and then half way through the run you think 'Woah, I remember how tough this is.'" So why does he do it? “I love the magic,” he says without hesitation.
“When it comes to the whole Disney world of magical kingdoms, I like it, and this is the closest I can get to it right here. It is Christmas for me. It is the lights and the glitz and the glam and everything else that goes with it. There are lots of things going on in peoples’ lives and with panto you can take the family, have a laugh, a joke, a scream, enjoy it for a couple of hours and then head back out into the big bad world.”
“But I can do it more than a couple of hours,” he adds, “I can do it show after show for a month and that’s what I love.” The magical glow of pantomime summons Lynch back to the stage year after year. As a seasoned pantomime performer, does he have any advice for those about to enter their first season in Pantoland?
“The first week you’re just so scared. The second week you start to settle in. By the third week you don’t even know what scene you’re working on, it all rolls into one, so just enjoy it as much as you possibly can because it can be a lot of fun; don’t make it hard for yourself.”
As a member of one of Ireland’s most successful boybands, I ask Lynch whether audiences can expect to hear some of Boyzone’s most popular melodies in this year’s festive offering?
“Do you know, I have no idea! There’s so many singers in this panto anyway, I don’t even know if there’s time for dialogue, so we’ll see how it goes!”
During Aladdin’s run Boyzone are set to celebrate their 20th anniversary, with new material being recorded in the New Year. A possible world tour in 2013 may also force Lynch to miss his beloved panto season next year, but with a reunion on the cards, does this mean Sevenoaks can expect to see his fellow bandmates in the audience at the Stag?
“In the past they have dropped in to various theatres all around the UK, so who knows this time? I really hope so!” he says.
‘Aladdin’ runs at the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks from December 8th 2012 – January 6th 2013.