Christmas is just around the corner and with it comes one of our bestloved seasonal traditions – panto!
This year, Peter Pan is winging its way to Venue Cymru in Llandudno from Saturday 9th to Sunday 31st December for a star-studded performance which includes theatre actress Pauline Daniels, panto veteran Andy Jones and relative newcomer, soap-star turned stage-star, Ryan Thomas.
Preparing for his second season in panto, Ryan – best known for his role as Jason Grimshaw on ITV’s Coronation Street – has swapped 16 years of treading the cobbles to tread the boards instead. Playing the evil Captain Hook, Ryan is almost unrecognisable as the likelylad- next-door from Corrie, sporting a fabulous red velvet and gold-tasselled pirate suit and the iconic hooked hand.
YES Magazine’s Carly grabbed Ryan for a chat on a recent flying visit to Llandudno at Venue Cymru.
Carly: So when do rehearsals start?
Ryan: I start rehearsals on the 28th of November for 2 weeks – then we start on the 9th.
Carly: That’s really close to the actual performance!
Ryan: That’s the great thing about doing this beforehand; you should have seen me last year, I was a nervous wreck! It was really, really scary and daunting because I’d come from television after 16 years and was thrown straight on the stage. I think that’s why I wanted to leave; I wanted to test myself and be in a situation where I was on the stage but I just didn’t think I’d be singing and dancing as well – I took on quite a lot! This year I’m more relaxed because I know the routine and how it all works. I’m glad I can play Captain Hook this year and not have to worry about the other things that go with it – rehearsal times, how you work the director and so on. It’s a gruelling schedule but very rewarding at the same time.
Carly: On TV if you make a mistake you can do another take but being in something live like panto, is there more pressure?
Ryan: It’s a different sort of pressure. Anything can happen but when you’re with a cast like this they’re going to look after you – they’re pros. Last year, nothing went terribly wrong but you do get the fright on stage sometimes! You can make it work and ad-lib it but we try and stick to the script and be as professional as we can.
Carly: Your co-stars are Andy jones and Pauline Daniels. Have you crossed paths before?
Ryan: No but I’ve heard about these guys! Before I signed the contract I had to make sure I was around talented company. It wouldn’t work otherwise.
Carly: Your 3 week Panto schedule looks pretty intense. They’ve given you Christmas Day off, where will you be spending it?
Ryan: Last time I did panto I was in Swindon and I still had to go home to Manchester. It was a long way to go and a long way to come back. This time I’m an hour and a half away so it’s a lot easier. It’s the one day of the year I want to have a drink with all my family but then I’ve got two shows on Boxing Day! Not fair! My last show is New Year’s Eve so at least I’ll be able to bring in the New Year!
Carly: Will the cast of Corrie be coming along to support you?
Ryan: I don’t think they’ll come after last year! I got every single cast member up on stage with Buttons, singing and messing around so now they’re scared of me! They are always very supportive of anything I do so I wouldn’t be surprised if a few famous faces walked through the door.
Carly: Who’s been the biggest influence on your acting career so far?
Ryan: I worked on Coronation Street since I was 16. Sue Cleaver who plays Eileen has been a second mother to me, she’s brought me up. Terence Maynard who played my dad, Tony, was a big role model for me. Every time I did a scene with him it was like I was in a film – I loved that feeling.
Carly: This year’s been quite busy for you with Bear Grylls’ Celebrity Island. What impact has it had on you?
Ryan: What an experience – but I can’t say I enjoyed it! You have no idea what it’s like, they put a week’s worth of footage into one hour on television but it’s only a tiny part of what we went through. It was ten times harder than what you see on television. It was mentally challenging more than anything. We didn’t eat much for 8 days; our diet consisted of Caiman, snakes, turkey and fish, and we all lost about 2 stone.
Carly: Would you go back to the soaps in the future?
Ryan: I only left a year ago and I feel like I’ve not ticked all the boxes I want to tick yet. Never say never and I love Coronation Street but it’s not something I’m thinking about in the near future.
Of course – we have since learned that Ryan landed a part in Neighbours – Good luck from all at YES Mag Ryan!