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.
“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.