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Blessed tells of panto excitement

PUBLISHED: 09:52 08 December 2005 | UPDATED: 16:07 25 February 2010

Brian Blessed, who will play the evil Captain Hook, and Kirsten O'Brien, who will play Peter Pan, pose outside the Regent Theatre, Ipswich

Brian Blessed, who will play the evil Captain Hook, and Kirsten O'Brien, who will play Peter Pan, pose outside the Regent Theatre, Ipswich

EBULLIENT actor Brian Blessed roared into town for rehearsals as the evil Captain Hook in the pantomime Peter Pan.

Having had a puncture on the A12 on his way into Ipswich he was making up for lost time getting to know his fellow cast members, including BBC TV Smart presenter Kirsten O'Brien as Peter Pan and former breakdancing champion Carl Johns as Hook's henchman Smee.

EBULLIENT actor Brian Blessed roared into town for rehearsals as the evil Captain Hook in the pantomime Peter Pan.

Having had a puncture on the A12 on his way into Ipswich he was making up for lost time getting to know his fellow cast members, including BBC TV Smart presenter Kirsten O'Brien as Peter Pan and former breakdancing champion Carl Johns as Hook's henchman Smee.

Posing on the steps of the Regent Theatre in Ipswich for a company picture as rehearsals got under way, Brian declared: “I love pantomime, good pantomime and Peter Pan is going to be marvellous - particularly with this lovely, hugely talented cast.”

He said that it was pantomime which lured him into a life in the theatre. “When I was growing up in South Yorkshire, I was very friendly with Patrick Stewart - the great Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek - he lived in the next village to me and we used to go into Sheffield to see the local pantomimes.

“When I was 11 or 12 we went to see Jack and the Beanstalk and it made a huge impression on me. It was quite truly a magical experience. The sets, the lighting, the costumes… it was a wonderful experience. They had a giant that was 20 feet tall and it was during that performance that both Patrick and I decided that we both would become actors. That's why I am so delighted to be here in Ipswich providing Suffolk audiences with some wonderful pantomime.”

He said that he feels strongly that Peter Pan works best as a panto rather than a stage play. “In the stage play and in musical there is a barrier, a fourth wall, between the story and the audience. The audience can't join in the action, can't be apart of what's happening on stage.

“A pantomime is the perfect vehicle for Barrie's wonderful story because it provides a means for me as Hook to speak directly to the audience to break that fourth wall and the children can engage directly with what is happening on stage.

“My favourite moment in the play is when I come down off the stage and go through the auditorium in among the children and the audience and I ask them is Peter Pan dead. Of course they know he is not and they tell me so but they get to experience Hook up close and it's a lovely moment because Hook is a character they love to hate.”

Blessed pauses for effect and continues very seriously: “Love to hate - that's an important facet of the part. They don't hate him, they love to hate him because he does nasty things but you sort of love him because he is a rogue and a scoundrel and I am sure many members of our audience would love to be him because he is such a colourful character.”

He said that this is the fourth time that he has played Hook in his career and he keeps returning to the role because he feels such affection for the character and for JM Barrie's novel.

He added: “We are having a marvellous time and I can't wait for opening night because an audience really does make it all come alive.”

Peter Pan is at Ipswich Regent from December 17 until January 15 2006. Tickets are available on 01473 433100 or on the website online.ipswich.gov.uk/eSROIpswich/whats_on.asp

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