Mark Jones, Wishee Washee in Aladdin in Worthing this Christmas, is delighted to be back in the panto swing after taking a few years out.
“I missed a few years because I didn’t want to miss out on my children growing up. They are now seven and ten, and I fell back into it by chance,” Mark says.
“I stepped in for an Easter panto at the last moment.”
Even then, he had no intention of becoming a pantomime regular once again, but his two daughters loved it: “They encouraged me to get back to it, and yes, I did need some encouraging. I didn’t ever want to be that panto comic who is two or three times older than the 18-year-old Cinderella opposite him and be standing there saying ‘I love you, Cinders!’ That really would be a bit weird! But I am still doing panto now, and I guess I am just looking for new challenges.
“I am still doing the same roles, the comic roles. I guess I was a lot younger when I started, but as you get older, it becomes even more important to make sure that you are getting work and are putting dinner on the table. I am a single dad to the children. It’s tricky timing. But it is still very amicable with my ex-wife, and the girls can still come with me for some gigs. We only live an hour and 20 minutes away from Worthing, so it won’t be so difficult. Some dates it is not so straightforward, but this should be good.
“And it is one of those things. I guess they do understand this very weird thing that I do for a living. My ten-year-old would not necessarily follow in my footsteps but shows a little bit of interest. She will stand in the wings watching. My seven-year-old is happier to sit in the dressing room.”
Having children probably helps keep Mark in touch with all that a good pantomime needs to do.
“I think it has got to have energy that breaks down the barrier between the audience and the cast. I don’t mean that it has to go at break-neck speed, but it needs to have an energy to it and also an atmosphere that crackles.
“And you also need the audience to know that even though you are maybe giving 50 or 60 performances, that the one you are actually giving them in that moment is different to all the other 59, that it is something special just for them – and I think you get that through lots of ad libs from the characters like me on stage, from the dame and so on. We are all seasoned audience-workers. I would not say that we are actors in the traditional sense. We are people that know how to work an audience and get a response. We have to be ready for whatever the audience throw at us, shout out at us.”
Mark has been involved in performing and producing in professional theatre and entertainment for more than 20 years. As a performer, he travelled worldwide for Qdos Entertainment, playing leading roles in major tours alongside Julian Clary, Shane Richie, Nigel Havers and David Essex.
Aladdin runs at the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing from Friday, November 30-Tuesday, January 1. Tickets on http://www.worthingtheatres.co.uk or 01903 206206.