Yo, ho, ho! Entertainer, comic and actor, Joe Pasquale, can’t wait to cast off in this year’s glittering pantomime, Peter Pan, at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate Theatre.
The 53-year-old King Of The Jungle is splicing the mainbrace and providing the laughs as first mate Smee, alongside a crew featuring larger-than-life cabaret artist Ceri Dupree, as Mrs Smee, and stage and screen baddie Alex Giannini as Capt’n Hook.
Joe sat down with Stage Review to chat about panto and his determination to conquer a bucket-list of ambitions in his life.
“I love panto. It’s the first experience kids get of theatre. I was five years old and my nan took me to see Wendy Craig in Peter Pan in the West End and even now I remember it vividly.
“I was only five or six. In the ‘60s pantos weren’t what they are today, with all the special effects. It must have been pants because you could see all the ropes as they ‘flew,’ but to a young child it was amazing.
“Kids these days grow up with all this technology, iPads, computers, phones, with graphics that look so real.
“So I think it’s important to get them into an audience with 1,000 other people and get them to enjoy the magic of panto.
“The shows are great fun and it helps teach them about life. You have goodies and baddies, love stories, danger, jeopardy that’s without the effects and the music.
“It’s hard work but it’s not like going down a mine or stacking shelves for 18 hours a day.
“In this day and age, with the financial climate, no tickets are cheap no matter what you go and see, so it’s important to give people value for money.
“Some actors moan about eight shows a week in the West End. Wait until you get into panto and it’s sometimes three shows a day.”
Joe is best mates with Bradley Walsh who, this year, is a competitive Smee in Peter Pan just ten miles down the road at Milton Keynes Theatre.
“I’ve been mates with Bradley for over 30 years. As he’s down the road what we’re going to try and do is make a guest appearance in each other’s panto without telling anybody!
“We did it years ago in Dartford when Bradley was doing Dick Whittington. I just turned up and in every scene I walked on sobbing my heart out. Just a walk-on, crying.
“At the very end of the show I came out and he said: ‘That’s the town crier.’ ..and it brought the house down!
“This year I’ll nip into one of his scenes and he’ll nip into one of mine!”
Joe has become fearless since he won his spurs, and the top prize, in ITV’s jungle reality show I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.
“Who knows what they want to do in life? I still don’t know. I’m currently doing a degree in Life Sciences from the Open University and I’ve almost completed an advanced writing course.
“When I was little my dad used to take me to a pub in Grays, Essex, called The Wolf. He’d be inside playing darts and I’d be outside with a bottle of coke and a bag of crisps.
“I’d walk around the beach and find clay pipes and fossils, and, from that age, I had a fascination with rocks and stuff.
“I’d always been able to learn. I can pick up a script and just go and do it. I did Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern a couple of years ago and only had 10 days to learn it.
“The book had reams and reams of dialogue but I loved it. I’ve done The Producers and a few Ray Cooney farces but I’d love to do more straight acting – I just need to find a producer with the balls to cast me!
“I’d love to be a baddy.
“After I went into the jungle I realised that the only thing stopping me doing stuff was me.
“I hated flying but I had to jump out of a plane and a helicopter and I thought that if I could do this I shouldn’t be scared of flying.
“My son, Joe, got me a trial lesson at Rochester Airport and I got my flying licence six months later. I had to take eight exams to get it.
“I thought if I can take highly technical exams then I can do anything. So then I did the London Marathon, when I was 50, then I took up boxing and never had a fight before. What else hadn’t I done? I didn’t have any exams so I started the OU degree.
“I’ve got another 30 points to go before I get my degree.”
“You realise as you get older that the only thing stopping you doing stuff, is yourself. You worry about what people think and you fear failure.”
It’s Joe’s determination that has made him one of the nation’s best-loved entertainers.
The hard-working star finishes panto on January 4 and the next day starts rehearsals for a return to Spamalot for at least the first eight weeks of the 2015 tour.
Peter Pan runs on the Derngate stage from December 5 to January 4.