PANTO villain Kit Hesketh-Harvey isn’t ashamed to admit that he relishes making children cry.
“Last year nine children must have run out of the theatre crying and screaming within the first 60 seconds of my appearance on stage,” says Kit who was then threatening to feed plumpish children to the giant as Dastardly Dick in Yvonne Arnaud’s production of Jack And The Beanstalk.
“It must have been the green flash,” Kit continues, menacingly clipping his words.
“That’s the theatre of pain. Pantomime is many children’s first visceral experience of terror and delight (in live theatre) and the stronger you can make it, the better – anything to get them away from sitting in front of their telly boxes.”
A self-confessed ‘brattish child’, Kit has never forgotten his own ‘sense of wonderment’ when his grandmother, an opera singer, took him to see his first panto at the Yvonne Arnaud as a schoolboy in the 1960s.
Back then, the family were living in the town’s Clifford Manor Road.
“My grandmother would take me down to a muddy field to watch the Yvonne Arnaud being built,” recalls Kit, who became a choir boy at the age of eight and admits he has had ‘the sense of being on’ ever since.
A senior chorister at Canterbury, Oxbridge-educated Kit began singing at the Comedy Store in cabaret with pianist/composer Richard Sisson in Kit And The Widow.
Thirty years on, the duo played Cowardly Custard at Guildford. Over the years they have escorted US comedian Joan Rivers and appeared in last year’s Comedy Prom at the Albert Hall with Tim Minchin.
The Yvonne Arnaud produced its first pantomime in years in 2011 under the watchful eye of director and choreographer Gerry Tebbutt, former head of performing arts at the Guildford School of Acting.
At the time many critics agreed the gamble had paid off.
This year the cast of Aladdin include two GSA graduates – Jamie Brook (PC Pongo) and Lucy Hope-Borne (Princess Jasmine).
Former Coronation Street star Susie Blake, who played Beverley Unwin in the ITV1 soap, is the Genie with Guildford returnee Emma Thornett in the role of Aladdin.
Old sparring partners Royce Mills (Widow Twankey) and Joe Allen (Wishee Washee) will be providing the slapstick humour, and former Cranleigh schoolboy and Eagle Radio DJ Peter Gordon is returning for his sixth consecutive pantomime, this time as the Emperor.
“I love it. I’ll keep coming back as often as they ask me,” he says.
The theatre will be hosting a ‘relaxed performance’ on December 14 when the environment will be specifically designed for children with autistic spectrum condition.