Ashes fan Rob will hit a six for panto audience

IT IS unlikely but if Robert Maskell is late on stage at any point during Cinderella at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, everyone will know where he is – checking England’s progress in the Ashes.

A keen cricketer himself, he can’t wait for an acting role where he’s required to pad up, or maybe fling a few medium pace balls down the wicket.

He reveals his love for the game during a break in rehearsals for his part as Cinderella’s hapless father Baron Hardup in this year’s Yvonne Arnaud panto.

A professional French horn player for 20 years, including 10 with the Philharmonia, before turning to acting, Robert admits: “I’m not the greatest cricketer but I’m very keen…

“When I was with the Philharmonia I used to play for their cricket team and we would play other orchestras or music colleges. I’m a batsman but can also bowl if required.”

Having taken up acting late in life, he has appeared with the Guildford Shakespeare Company, toured with Birds Of A Feather and recently narrated The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – but he’s still waiting for that cricket role.

“I recently went to see The Ashes at the Nottingham Playhouse, which was about the famous ‘bodyline’ tour of the 1930s. It was superb – I’d have loved to have been in it.

“But whenever cricket appears in films or on TV and any of the actors play the game, it never looks right, so I’d just love to get a cricketing role to show how it should be done.”

As for playing Baron Hardup alongside Bonnie Langford as Fairy Snow and Alice Baker in the title role, he says it’s been an emotional return to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

“Interestingly enough, although I live in London now, I come from Farnborough and we used to come to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and the first theatre I ever saw was panto there,” he recalls.

“It’s quite special really because this is my first panto, and the Yvonne Arnaud is where I first saw theatre.”

He’s also looking forward to the change of style panto will bring, having spent a couple of spells doing Shakespeare.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “I remember as a child you’re caught up in the whole fantasy of it all.

“The director Gerry Tebbutt has got everything just right. There’s obviously nothing too smutty, but a good joke is a good joke and as long as the parents are entertained as well, it will be fine.

“The best pantos are the ones that work on all levels.”

In the future he says he’d like to try all forms of acting – from stage to TV and film – but says there will probably be no return to the French horn. “I switched after 20 years because I’d always wanted to be an actor,” he says.

“There was an opportunity so I decided to take a chance.

“Anyway, to play the French horn properly you have to be playing all the time and when I’m acting I don’t have time.

“I wouldn’t say I got fed up with it but I had the opportunity to do the other thing I had always wanted to do.”

Robert Maskell stars as Baron Hardup in Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, which runs until Sunday, January 12.

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