With the Oxford Playhouse panto well underway, and thousands expected to pour through the doors in the next month, Ricky Oakley is already ten shows in.
Having played Dick in Dick Whittington and Jack in Jack And The Beanstalk, he knew he’d be cast in 2019’s extravaganza, but was still surprised to get a call from director Steve Marmion telling him he wouldn’t be the hero but, wait for it…. an orangutan called Brian.
Sweating profusely yet having the time of his life, Ricky is loving his new metamorphosis, and really able to really make the part his own.
“I loved playing the hero,” he says, “who wouldn’t? But at least now I can really play around with my character and have a laugh. There is a lot more freedom to fool around and make people laugh now,” he grins.
But just as the full razzmatazz of Beauty And The Beast unleashed, there have been a few technical hitches, namely the dame becoming ill the night before opening night and being replaced 5 hours before the first performance by the very able Philip Pellew, who conducted the first show with a clipboard, but is now au fait with all the songs, dances and costume changes.
“The audience was very understanding because let’s face it, one’s health is the most important thing in life,” Ricky says, “and Philip went down a storm because he dived straight into the part.”
“Oxford is like my second home now. I know all the local haunts, the best pubs and I really love it here”
Now a fast, action packed, all-singing, all-dancing unashamed pantomime, Ricky is loving Steve’s vision for this year’s Oxford offering.
“It’s always a baptism of fire in Oxford, because Steve packs so much into his pantomimes, and Beauty and The Beast is no different. There are so many animals this year – a seal singing Seal, a fox, an orangutan, the list goes on and on, and so much fun along the way.
“Its got new songs and music, silly gags, lots of dancing. And the audience always makes it worthwhile, even if I am half the man by January because I get so hot.”
“It’s amazing seeing the kids screaming and shouting along. When they get told to behave it’s really unnerving so we encourage them to join in, because this is where they are allowed to be excited.”
As for the jokes, Ricky says they don’t mention the B-Word (not funny) but he has a lot of monkey gags instead.
So how does he keep going until Jan 12? “You just push through. It’s the children and the audiences that keep you going and we have a few days off over Christmas so come back re-energised and ready for more. Besides I don’t have any tights and boots to worry about this year.”
“And Oxford is like my second home now. I know all the local haunts, the best pubs and I really love it here.”
FULL REVIEW TO FOLLOW
Oxford Playhouse panto Beauty And The Beast runs until Dec 12.
oxfordplayhouse.com or 01865 305305