Norfolk comedian saves Easter circus at 11th hour

Johnny Mac, Jack Jay and James Franklin in Pirates Online! from the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

L to R: Johnny Mac, Jack Jay and James Franklin - Credit: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Comedian Ben Langley learned an entire show in 24 hours when he stepped in to replace unwell Hippodrome Circus favourite and co-host Johnny Mac.

Pirates Live! at the Great Yarmouth venue was able to open on Saturday thanks to Ben, who rushed to learn his lines in just a day.

Mac fell ill as rehearsals began and was unable to join host and circus producer Jack Jay on stage for the grand opening of the month-long show.

It is the 13th year the pair have joined forces at the Hippodrome: and it proved unlucky for some. 

Performer Johnny Mac in Pirates Online! at Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Johnny Mac in Pirates Online! at Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus - Credit: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus

Circus owner Peter Jay explained: “Johnny came down for rehearsals but before he could set foot in the building he fell ill.

“We hoped it would be a short-lived bug but at the end of the week we realised he wasn’t going to be well enough for the opening of the show.

“We thought we might have to cancel, but then we called Ben who hosts with Jack at Christmas, and he agreed to step in. He’s our hero!”

Ben Langley is returning to the Hippodrome next yearPictureL Strretview Marketing

Ben Langley is returning to the Hippodrome next yearPictureL Strretview Marketing - Credit: Archant


Ben received rapturous applause from the audience after his flawless last-minute performance in Pirates Live! which is set in a galleon on the edge of the Hippodrome pool.

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The tables have turned for Mac, who in December took over from Birmingham Hippodrome panto star Matt Slack who tested positive for Covid on Boxing Day.

Johnny’s own pantomime, Cinderellla at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre had been shut at Christmas due to new Covid attendance rules so he was able to step into his friend Matt’s role in Birmingham. 

He told the BBC at the time: “I was absolutely terrified, but what an amazing experience.” 

Johnny's planned return to the ring was Monday April 4.

* Pirates Live! runs until May 2. To find out more visit www.hippodromecircus.co.uk or call 01493 738877.