My first panto was Aladdin at Harrow Arts Centre eight years ago. The circumstances under which I got the job were a bit unusual. It was a community production so only members of the local community were invited to audition. These were all amateur performers. However, the director felt the part of the dame, Widow Twankey, would be best served by a professional so I was asked if I would do it.
I was at a loose end and it sounded like fun so I said yes. I had done a family show for Talawa Theatre a couple of years earlier – Anansi Trades Places – so I was aware that entertaining children and young people required high energy and big, sometimes (but not always) over-the-top performing. I took that experience with me into the panto. I had also had a lot of experience doing stand-up, where a huge part of the craft is dispensing with the fourth wall and interacting directly with an audience. I’ll be bringing my experience from those two shows plus my comedic experience into my current show.
My advice to anyone starting out in panto would be to play it big, energetic and have fun. If the audience sees you’re enjoying yourself, they’ll feed off it. It also helps if you can find ways to make what you’re doing on stage funnier than it already is – but avoid being too self-indulgent, because your fun may backfire.
My general note to all young actors regardless of whether it’s a high-energy panto or piece of serious theatre is: always look for the truth of your character. Really think about your character, the relevance, context of that character to the story – the lines you’re saying and why you’re saying them – then commit to it.
Training: Brunel University
Theatre includes: The Plague (Arcola Theatre), The Importance of Being Earnest (Original Theatre Company), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Young Vic), To Kill a Mockingbird (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre), Macbeth (Shakespeare’s Globe), The Big Life (Theatre Royal Stratford East/Apollo Shaftesbury Avenue)
TV includes: Guerilla (Sky Atlantic/Showtime), EastEnders (BBC), A-Force (BBC), The Real McCoy (BBC), Rag Tag (Mucka Flicks)
Writing credits: Anansi and The Magic Mirror (Talawa Theatre), The Oddest Couple (Theatre Royal Stratford East), What a Wonderful World (Blue Elephant Theatre)
Agent: The Narrow Road Company
Geoff Aymer is in Robin Hood: The Arrow of Destiny at Theatre Peckham from December 4 to 22. He was talking to John Byrne