Everyone loves panto, says Brendan the Genie

BRENDAN Cole, a star of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, is about to take to the stage for a run in Woking’s annual panto, but his career started out very differently

“I’ll never forget my first professional engagement,” laughs the New Zealand-born dancer, who is to play the Genie in Aladdin.

“I went to Hackney for an engagement at Radio Rentals. Do you remember them? They were a radio and TV rental outlet, very popular for a time.

Genie Brendon Cole meets Aladdin Bobby Davro at the New Victoria Theatre

“The job was to dance around the showroom and forecourt to attract customers – we had to keep an eye on the people, the stock, what the weather was doing outside, as well as each other. The girls had lavish ballroom gowns and the space was limited but we got through it.

“That job was much better than some I’ve had. Early on, I was a builder and roofer – I enjoyed that a lot – but for a time I was a cleaner in Denmark and hated it. All I can say is some Danish can leave a lot of mess. I guess if they didn’t there wouldn’t be a job!”

In fact Brendan, who was a professional dancer and a judge on TV’s favourite dance show, says that if stardom hadn’t knocked on his door, he’d still have enjoyed life.

“I’d probably be in the building trades in some capacity,” he muses. “I’ve been a builder and roofer and enjoyed that. I like building. I like creating. It could be some form of design or development, but I’d want it to be fulfilling. After a successful day, why there’s nothing better than to go home, be with the family and perhaps sneak a watch at a good game of rugby.”

he’s currently looking forward to taking to the New Victoria Theatre stage alongside Bobby Davro and Mischa Eckersley, and he enjoys panto almost as much as dancing.

“I love the audience reaction, the on-stage sparkle and excitement, the actual speed of panto.’” he enthuses. “Pantomimes actually develop, I tend to add bits and, if they work, we keep them in. Somehow an audience encourages you to do more.

“There’s always the unexpected too. Even after 30 performances something new can happen and off-we-go. The unexpected keeps every show fresh.

“My first panto was Cinderella, way back in 2004. I was cast as Prince Brendan of… somewhere. It was an amazing experience and this year to be Genie in Aladdin. I can’t wait. Bring it on.”

The 43-year-old is also looking forward to returning to a town where he’s appeared several times with his touring dance shows.

“It’s fantastic to be back in Woking, I’ve been here at least seven or eight times and it’s always fun,” he says. “The staff, both front and back stage are welcoming and the support Woking audiences have given my own shows has been, well, just terrific!

“And now I’m back with Aladdin and a great cast! Fantastic. I love it. Doesn’t everyone? It’s brilliant performing, I like being on stage and pantomime can be a wonderful break-free opportunity.”

Brendan Cole, Bobby Davro and Mischa Eckersley (star of CBBC’s 4 O’Clock Club) can be seen in Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Friday next week, 6 December until Sunday 5 January.

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