Shane Ritchie talks about return to Wycombe Swan panto

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With only a month left until Shane Richie hits the Wycombe Swan stage as Dick Whittington, we spoke to the award-winning TV soap star, actor and comedian about leading the fantastic pantomime cast on stage from December 13.

Shane’s casting as Dick follows his hugely-successful season as Buttons in Cinderella at the Bucks theatre last Christmas.

Alongside a formidable TV career Shane has enjoyed high-profile stage credits including playing Danny Zuko in the West End production of Grease which broke all box office records), and in Boogie Nights which he co-wrote and co-produced in the West End and on national tour.

Joining Shane this year will be Malcolm Lord as Sarah the Cook. It’s Malcolm’s 24th year as a panto dame and, if you’re a parent and think his voice sounds familiar, that’s because he was, for 13 years, George the Hippo and then Bungle in TV’s Rainbow.

Malcolm Lord

Kim Tiddy (Hollyoaks’ Heidi Costello) makes her panto debut playing the villainous Queen Rat.

The incredibly busy Shane has just had time for a quick Q & A before launching into rehearsals.

What is it you love about performing in High Wycombe?

I love the audiences in Wycombe, there is a real sense that they come out to be entertained and have a good time.

Each time I’ve worked in the town I’ve received such a warm welcome. Some years ago we got snowed in and the number of offers to stay with families in their spare rooms was amazing!

In fact I think some of the cast did. I managed to get in a local hotel which turned out to be nice as it had a huge TV in the room, so I chilled until the next day’s shows!

Are there any differences in rehearsing for panto compared to your other stage work?

All rehearsals are full-on and hard work and a story is a story no matter what it is. It has to be rehearsed and staged for full effect on stage.

The one thing with panto is that rehearsals are over a very short period, with just two weeks between the start of rehearsals and the first show, so there is a lot to get through in a short time.

With so much to do on stage, how do you manage to keep your energy levels up during panto?

It’s honestly really hard! However once I’m on stage and see the audience, the energy kicks in!

There’s nothing like the combination of an audience and the energy of a big production to keep you going.

Dick Whittington is one of many brilliant stage roles you’ve had over the years. What role has been your favourite to play?

I can’t choose one as they are all terrific and have their own identities. However, I have never played Dick Whittington before so this is a first and I’m really looking forward to it!

Are you currently planning on writing any more stage shows after the success of Boogie Nights?

I do have an idea but I don’t have the time right now owing to my television work. EastEnders continues with terrific stories and I have two new series for BBC One in 2015.

As well as TV you seem to have a strong sense of the stage as your natural habitat. What do you enjoy about theatre the most?

As I always say, the thrill of an audience is wonderful. Nothing can beat the live on-stage sensation. Although I love TV and Theatre equally, they are both very different.

Where is your favourite place in London?

The view from Waterloo Bridge and St Katharine’s Docks.

If you were Mayor for the day what laws would you pass?

Abolish the Congestion Charge as it’s just a tax really!

Are there any other dream roles on your bucket list?

Yes, but I have to keep them a secret as if I talk about them, they won’t come true!

Jon Conway, writer and director of Dick Whittington, said: “Once again the Wycombe Swan pantomime is going to be a fabulous big-budget show, with a first-rate cast.

“We’re delighted that Shane is returning to Wycombe Swan for another year, his comic timing makes him a master of pantomime, and he is so loved by audiences young and old”.

Dick Whittington runs from December 13-January 4

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