That’s Entertainment

IF YOU haven’t seen the villainous Kit Hesketh-Harvey since last year’s panto stint, it’s probably because he’s been to, er, South America.

“I went to Uruguay to learn how to dance the samba,” he says nonchalantly. “So this year, my dancing has got a little bit less worse…”

Villainous Kit Hesketh-Harvey will be playing King Rat in Dick Whittington at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

He’s back to play King Rat in Dick Whittington at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and his Latin American visit was actually just one small part of his varied life.

Kit is still very much enjoying his residency at The Pheasantry, where he performs in cabaret partnership with James McConnel.

“All’s fabulous at the Pheasantry – and actually James and I have been performing all over this great big nation too,” he says. “We just did the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and we had a particularly memorable audience with a seven-year-old and a 109-year-old in it. So we’re trying to appeal across the generations…”

Kit also spends his time writing opera librettos, broadcasting and regularly contributing a column for Country Life.  And he’s added another string to his bow.

“I’ve published my book!” he exclaims. “It’s called For The Shooting and it’s my first detective novel. It’s on sale now and I must say it would make a brilliant Christmas gift…

“What else have I been doing? Oh yes, Litvinenko (he wrote the opera libretto) opens at Bamber Gascoigne’s new Grange Park opera house this autumn. By the time I get to Guildford it will have received its first staging.”

An Yvonne Arnaud panto regular, Kit is once again trading his Norfolk home for Surrey this Christmas and says: “Norfolk is keeping me out of mischief unfortunately, so I can’t wait. I’m very excited by the thought of Dick Whittington coming to the theatre for the first time in many years.

“I actually met my wonderful wife Kate in Dick Whittington at Brighton in 1984. She was playing Alice Fitzwarren and I was one of the broker’s men. It was Christopher Biggins who introduced us. So I do owe a lot to Dick Whittington. And I haven’t played King Rat before… I want to be the Ross Poldark of King Rat.

“Also, I like that Guildford is my ancestral territory – it was where my grandparents lived and where my forebears came from. When I was a tiny child my grandmother marched me down from Clifford Manor Road where she lived, to watch the Yvonne Arnaud being built.  My Uncle Hector gave the cricket ground to the town and I have many dotty Surrey relatives who used to tread the boards, so I feel I’m in an honourable tradition.”

Dick Whittington, which also stars Judy Cornwell from TV’s Keeping Up Appearances, runs at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, from Friday 8 December until Sunday 7 January.

FANS of EastEnders star Shane Richie are in for a Christmas treat. Not only will the London-born actor be starring in Robin Hood at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre – so will three of his children.

He says he’ll be channelling his soap character Alfie Moon on stage, and the panto will be a real family affair.

“The fun thing for me – other than playing Robin – is that three of my kids, the 11, nine and six-year-old (Mackenzie Blue, Lolita-Bell and Romani-Skye), are in the show with me,” he explains.

FAMILY AFFAIR – Shane Richie will be taking stock of the audience when he plays Robin Hood at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre

“It’s a time I spend with them 24/7 so even when they’re not in the show they’ll be in the theatre. My two older boys are now doing their own thing – Shane’s doing panto with his mum Coleen (Nolan) and Jake’s got his band – but they’ll all come and see the show.”

Shane says he’ll be playing the famous outlaw Robin Hood as part romantic lead and part loveable – but daft – comedy character.

“I think he’s a mixture of both,” he says. “He’s kinda like Buttons with b***s – and there’s a million and one references to Alfie Moon on stage. I’m playing Robin/Alfie.

“It’s a very physical part as well. There’s a lot of jumping about, jumping on and off things, lots of sword fights. It’s a very physical show, which is great, because I normally drop about half a stone doing panto. Come January I’m all skinny and lovely!”

The 53-year-old is a former Pontins’ Bluecoat who found TV fame in sketch shows, adverts and hosting quiz shows before taking on the role of EastEnders’ Alfie in 2002 and appearing in stage musicals like Boogie Nights and Grease.

By bringing a bit of much-needed humour to Albert Square he became a household name.

One thing’s for sure, he’s looking forward to his panto stint, and says: “There’s nothing like it. The rules are whatever I want them to be.

“I’ve got this tradition now that no two shows are ever the same. It’s the only genre that allows you to do that. When I’ve done EastEnders or toured with plays, every show has to be the same because of the text. But this, it’s whatever I want it to be!

“If I wanna rescue Marian I might, I might not. If I wanna get somebody out of the audience, if I wanna be Buttons, if I wanna talk about climbing the beanstalk – it’s anything I want it to be. And that’s what I love about it. It just lets me freefall and the audience come along for the ride.

“Thankfully the actors I’ve got around me have been around me for several years now so I see them in the wings going ‘It’s gonna be another 10 minutes yet, he’s just gone off on one. He’s gone into the audience we don’t know when he’s coming back’ and I enjoy that.”

As for the future, Shane says: “I’d love to do another musical. It’s finding the right one. I’ve got the theatrical rights to a movie called The Small World of Sammy Lee which was an Anthony Newley film back in the ‘60s. We’ve written six original songs for it and we’re looking for investors at the moment. I’m itching to do that.

“I made a resolution last year just to keep trying to push myself, taking me out of my comfort zone. I love thinking ‘Oh, I’m not going to be able to pull this off’. I enjoy doing that.

“The older I get I think I’m becoming more fearless because there aren’t as many years ahead as there behind me. So, more of the same!”

Shane Richie will star alongside Peter Piper, Ashleigh Gray, Pete Gallagher and Suzy Bastone in Robin Hood at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Saturday 9 December until Sunday 7 January.

THE story of a boy who never grows up will be depicted at St John the Baptist School next week, when its students are staging a classic JM Barrie play.

Girls and boys from every year will be taking part in Peter Pan – who can fly and spends his perpetual childhood having adventures on the mythical island of Neverland.

Wendy reads a story to the Lost Boys

The leader of a band of Lost Boys interacts with fairies, pirates, mermaids, Native Americans – and ordinary children from the world outside.

Lucy McConnell, head of performing arts at the school in Old Woking, said: “We are bringing the magic of Neverland to Woking and have been working solidly since September to prepare our play, which has live music and visual props.

“I could not be prouder of every member of our cast, band and crew.”

THE Phoenix Centre in Goldsworth Road is hosting another series of international acts on Sunday 12 November.

The Swedish duo, Pontus (Pna) Andersson and Australian rock singer and guitarist Jane Kitto, of Perfect Blue Sky will be headlining the Sunday afternoon acoustic session at the venue as part of a UK tour.

It follows the success of their recent UK radio tour and will feature their new feel-good single Astronaut, released on 20 October. The video for this was filmed in July by award-winning fine arts photographer Mikaela Holmberg in Finland.

The band came together in 2014 and share a love of classic rock highlighted in the uninhibited vibes of 60s/70s psychedelic classic rock that feature in their new album, The Eye of Tilos, is filled with imagination and spirit.

The afternoon also features Saiichi Sugiyama, a British-based guitarist, singer and composer, best known for his writing and performing collaborations with Pete Brown, the lyricist for Cream since 2002 to date.

His previous bands in 1990s featured Mike Casswell and Phil Williams of Walk on Fire, Andy Smith of Hot Chocolate, Zoot Money, Boz Burrell of Bad Company, John Cook of Rory Gallagher band as well as the guitarist, Paul Wassif.

They will be joined by Surrey-band Quiet Wish playing alt-rock, electronic trip-hop, ambient progressive, floyd-esque original music that reflects current environmental and humanitarian concerns.

Soul singer BR James will be at the Phoenix Centre on 25 November for an intimate evening launching his album.

Lots of regular events at the centre include Jane’s Jam acoustic sessions, Peter’s 30mm open mic and feature sessions, pregnancy yoga, Woking Stanza poetry workshops, Woking Green Drinks, and Women’s Red Tent sessions.

Entry on 12 November is £6 and early bird tickets for BR James are £10, full price tickets will be £12.50. More information on this and other events is available at  thephoenix.interests.me

Pirbright  Players have assembled a cast of more than 30 people for their version of the pantomime classic Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Written by award=winning playwright Ben Crocker, the festive production is promising great jokes, original songs, dances, lots of audience participation and a host of memorable characters.

It includes ‘the baddie’ Sheik Mustapha Leikh and his two henchmen, Yessir and Nossah, man-mad Babs Baba ‘the dame’ and her friends Moonah, Loonah and Noonah.

Ali Baba and Safiya are the love-struck ‘principal boy and girl’ and Ali’s hen-pecked brother Cassim is married to the greedy and scheming Sharon. The show also features a freaky tailor, Fab Rick and Kamil…a very nervous camel.

The cast, which includes children, will perform at Lord Pirbright’s Hall, Pirbright, with matinees on 25-26 November  at 2.30pm and an evening performance on 25 November at 7.30pm

Children in the cast of Pirbright Players’ pantomime classic Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

IF BLUES artists get better with age, John Mayall must be starting to reach his peak.

The leader of The Bluesbreakers who is known as the ‘Godfather of British blues’ has just released his 65th (yes that’s 65!) studio album called Talk About That. What’s more, having worked with everyone from Eric Clapton and Peter Green to Mick Taylor and Chris Rea, this time he collaborates with Eagles’ guitar legend Joe Walsh.

John Mayall: Blues musician will be striking a chord with audiences at G Live, Guildford

“The music’s always fresh to me,” says Mayall, reflecting on his long career which started in his college days in 1956. “We play 100 shows every year on the road. It’s a matter of documenting what we’re doing. There’s never problem, it’s the blues.”

Unbelievably, he says the only thing holding back recording is his inability to read musical notes.

“Because I can’t read or write music I don’t finish songs until we’ve got some studio time,” he explains. “I put material together about a week before we go into the studio.

“Keyboards is the main way that I compose songs on, it depends on the physical nature of the song whether it requires me to play guitar or keyboards.”

There have been around 50 members of The Bluesbreakers since the early ‘60s, including Walter Trout, Mick Fleetwood and Jack Bruce as well as Clapton and Green.

A lot of the people who have worked with me have been in constant rotation,” says Mayall. “Most of the changes go back to the early days rather than recently. In the past 10 years there’s only been one change and in the 10 years before that only a couple of changes. So, it was mainly early on.”

He’s also known for loving collaborations and in 2001 recorded Along For The Ride featuring assorted ex-Bluesbreakers along with Gary Moore, Johnny Lang, Jeff Healey, Steve Miller, Otis Rush and Chris Rea among others.

“Sometimes I hear a musician and it clicks  as somebody I want to work with,” he says. “Being a band leader you get the privilege of working with all you want.

Along For The Ride, that was a big roundup of people I had worked with before, plus people like Jeff Healy and Gary Moore. I phoned them up and they were all very happy to do it and wanted to work with me.”

The latest hook-up, with Walsh, he says “came out of the woodwork”.

“I didn’t know anything about his interest in me, but I think the album is pretty special.

“He just showed up at the studio on the second day. He was in the studio for maybe three hours and they’re all one-takes. It was very pleasurable.

“It seems that the people who accept my offer of coming to play with me, it seems it’s in their interests too.”

Macclesfield-born Mayall has lived in America since the late 1960s but has been looking forward to his current British tour.

“I’ve been in the States more than half my life, this is home to me now – but it’s very nice being a musician and getting to travel the world,” he says. “I often do a big British tour and it’s great to visit all the places I’m familiar with and have an English audience appreciate what I do.

“Britain is always there and part of my upbringing and part of my life.”

True to form, he’s already thinking about the next album, saying: “I don’t have a release date but it’s a live album we recorded in Europe. It’s finished and I’m doing the artwork now. It will be called Three For The Road.”

The blues, it seems, just continue to endure and Mayall says: “People can relate to it because it’s about real things, but it’s also an exciting form of music that’s stood the test of time. It’s simple but people are always coming up with new interpretations. It’s a story that’s never-ending.”

John Mayall will play at G Live, Guildford, on Friday 10 November

TIME appears to have caught up with heroic outlaw Robin Hood but, rest assured, he is still playing it strictly for panto laughs at the New Victoria Theatre this year.

Robin –  soap star Shane Richie – will be leading the cast when the pantomime opens on Thursday 7 December.

Having established himself as one of the nation’s favourite soap stars, Shane has won numerous awards and millions of fans for his portrayal of Albert Square’s loveable landlord Alfie Moon in EastEnders among numerous other television, film and stage appearances.

In the stocks – Ashleigh Gray, Suzy Bastone, Shane Richie and Pete Gallagher

He teamed up with the others from the cast for a photo call earlier this week to spread the word that he will soon be in town to win the hand of Maid Marian while he and his trusty band of Merry Men try to outwit the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

Pictured here with Robin are:  Ashleigh Gray (The Spirit of Sherwood), Suzy Bastone (Maid Marian) and Pete Gallagher (The Sheriff of Nottingham).

Produced by Qdos Entertainment, the world’s biggest pantomime producer, it is a show which promises to be full of action, adventure, music, laughter and audience participation.

Robin Hood runs until 7 January 2018. For tickets call the box office on 0844 871 7645.

SPOILT kids and parenting skills can be touchy subjects for anyone – but Irish comic Ed Byrne will be fearless in his approach on his current UK tour.

The star of Mock The Week (among many other TV shows) insists that the current breed of parents spoil their kids rotten, whether it’s to do with the ever-increasing size of garden trampolines, or his own kids’ demand for elderflower cordial.

“My dad wasn’t a bad dad, he was just a 1970s dad,” explains Ed. “I could never see my children ever again from this moment on, and I’ve already done more parenting then he did in my entire life.

“But, of course, I made a conscious decision that I was going to be an awesome dad. My wife will come back with tales from her friends of how awful their husbands are and she’ll see me smiling and say ‘alright, stop congratulating yourself just because such and such can’t be left alone with their children for two minutes’.”

Ed compares and contrasts the old-school child-rearing days with 21st century methods in his latest show, Spoiler Alert, and suggests that there are different ways to learn how to be a mum or dad.

“I grew up in what I would call an aspirational household in that my parents bettered themselves over the course of my childhood,” he says. “My mother was a radiographer and ended up a lecturer in radiography, while my dad was a sheet metal worker and went up to a supervisory role.

“I’d still say that you are expected to do a lot more parenting than our parents did and that’s a weird thing because you tend to think that your parents are where you learned parenting from. But you don’t, really, it’s more that you look around you to see what’s going on with other parents.”

Ed extends his analysis on the culture of entitlement to look at areas where we could perhaps do with being spoiled a little bit more. “Where I think we’re not acting spoiled enough is in the political arena. We have a tendency to accept what’s happening and that’s where we should be acting more entitled – we are literally entitled to the government we want. We’re spoiled in all these little ways, but not spoiled enough.”

As well as stories about his two young sons, Ed weaves in routines about running out of petrol in the most awkward place imaginable, helping rescue an injured man in the Cairngorms, and the nation-dividing campaign and result of the EU referendum. His way of tackling Brexit is to draw an analogy with the time his son was determined to touch an electric fence even though he tried to warn him of the dangers.

“I was telling the story of the electric fence for a while, and then suddenly it struck me that it was Brexit in microcosm,” he says. “I don’t want to alienate half of the population or maybe a third of my audience, but it works as an analogy whichever side you’re on.

“The government told you not to do this and that it would be a terrible idea, but you said ‘No, we want to do it anyway’. So now we’re doing it and it’s proving a terrible idea. I do think it’s a fair analogy…”

Ed Byrne brings his Spoiler Alert show to Camberley Theatre on Monday (16 Oct), G Live in Guildford on Friday 24 November and the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, on Saturday 14 April, 2018.

THE roar of engines filled the air at the sixth annual Autumn Motorsport Day at Brooklands Museum on Sunday.

The event is the Museum’s end-of-season celebration of all things motorsport, highlighting everything from grass-roots competition to the pinnacle of the sport – Grand Prix racing. As well as displays and Club stands, invited cars took part in demonstration laps on the circuit at neighbouring Mercedes-Benz World.

There were also engine runs from a 3,000hp dragster, allowing spectators the chance to experience the sight, sound and smell of these powerful vehicles, even though it wasn’t blasting along a track. To top off the action, there were Test Hill ascents, where the packed crowd was treated to brave drivers blasting their way to the famous summit.

Marc Almond is not the best singer you’ll ever hear – but what a performer he is!

He’s living proof that personality, charisma and a laser accuracy in choosing the perfect cover version can get you a very long way.

Marc first came into view fronting Soft Cell when they hit the charts way back in 1981 with their version of Gloria Jones’ Tainted Love. Now, his long career as a solo artist has hit the latest in a long line of peaks with new album, Shadows & Reflections, a collection of mostly obscure-ish torch songs from the 1960s.

So, he opens this show with 40 minutes or so from the new record and we get his take on The Herd’s From The Underworld, The Yardbirds’ Still I’m Sad, Bobby Darin’s Not For Me and many more.

Marc is in full 1960s lounge mode backed by an 18-piece band, including strings, brass, drums, guitars, piano, five – yes five! – backing singers (which may excuse the eye-watering ticket prices) and they produce the lush, orchestral sound these songs deserve.

Later in the set of over two hours we get Almond originals like Winter Sun, My Hand Over My Heart and A Kind Of Love as well as additional cover versions (Bowie’s London Boys, Dusty’s I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten, Pitney’s Somethings Gotten hold Of My Heart and more) plus a couple of nods to Soft Cell (Torch, a burst of Tainted Love and an appropriate farewell with Say Hello Wave Goodbye).

Marc is his usual affable self throughout, semi-joking about tributes to himself by the likes of Burt Bacharach and David Bowie and having the good grace to laugh mid-song when he tried and failed to climb onto his leather chair centre stage (“Tight jeans and bad knees is not a good combination” he later joked).

He stopped to drink in the genuine applause at the end and it’s great to see such a star getting true acclaim again.