Wayne Sleep gets ready to play the Norwich Theatre Royal panto villain
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Dancer Wayne Sleep is looking forward to making his pantomime villain debut when he steps out on the Norwich Theatre Royal stage this Christmas.
Mr Sleep, whose career has led to him becoming one of Britain's most famous dancers and being made an OBE, is to head the cast of the theatre's Christmas show, Jack and the Beanstalk, and today he paid a visit to Norwich for some early pantomime preparations.
'I play the baddie and I'm really looking forward to that. I've been the Child Catcher [in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang] at the Palladium but I've never played the baddie in pantomime before,' said Mr Sleep, whose character will be called Phineas P Stinkworthy.
And while he joked that he was looking forward to frightening his audiences, he said his character would not be all evil.
'I won't be too evil, he's a nice man underneath, so we are not going to frighten them entirely because they might never come back to the theatre again!'
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Despite being new to the baddie role, Mr Sleep has performed in more than 20 pantomimes, with his first being Aladdin at the London Palladium in the 1970s. Pantomime has also brought him to Norwich before as he starred as Ronnie the Ringmaster in the Theatre Royal's production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in 1984 and as the Genie of the Ring in Aladdin in 1987.
Looking back on the Goldilocks production, he said: 'It was the first time I had a pantomime made around me. They put so much into it. We had lasers long before they did them anywhere else. We had mirror floors, I had a mirror suit that bounced off the laser beams. It was very advanced for what it was. It was the first time I had ever seen the foyer like a fairground before...the minute they [the audience] walked into the theatre it was an event.'
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He said he especially enjoyed being involved in pantomime because it was a great British tradition.
'When you get used to performing at Christmas it is part of the Christmas festivities. Not doing pantomime is like not having a Christmas tree.'
And he added he was looking forward to interacting with the Norwich audiences.
'I want your boos and hisses and that will spur me on. We are only as good as the audience, so don't let us down!'
Jack and the Beanstalk will be at Norwich Theatre Royal from December 13 to January 15. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
Wayne Sleep has achieved a huge amount over the decades in the dance world and beyond.
When asked for three of his career highlights, he said:
1. Achieving a scholarship for the Royal Ballet School which led to him becoming a senior principal dancer for the Royal Ballet Company.
'If it wasn't for winning that scholarship who knows what I would be doing. That was my first big chance.'
2. Creating his own dance company Dash, which performed in the West End and all over the world.
'I was the first one to bring jazz, ballet, tap and contemporary dance all under the same roof in one show...I opened a door for other people now to be accepted.'
3. Dancing with Princess Diana in 1985 at the Royal Opera House.
'We had such fun. We did eight curtain calls.'