Back to play King Rat !

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.

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