Pantomime Special Q and A: Robin Hood at Greenwich Theatre
Andrew Pollard, 45, is a familiar face to the Greenwich public - he's been delighting crowds with his self-penned pantomimes and dames for seven years.
He tells Beth Allcock about his decision to take on the director's role as well as playing Nursey in Robin Hood.
■ Why Robin Hood?
I was badgering [artistic director] James Haddrell about this play for a couple of years, but he was a bit reluctant. We took a gamble, and ticket sales have been up. At the theatre we have such a loyal following, they seem to like what we do, and it wouldn't make a difference if we did other shows that weren't as well-known.
■ What is the time-scale for penning a panto?
We decide on next year's before this one finishes. My mind gets going, then I start pretty much as soon as I finish this. I do the first draft for March and it goes through the year. There are three drafts, a bit of tweaking, before the rehearsal drafts.
■ What can the audience expect from Nursey?
I am the leader of the comedy; I am the link with the audience and I bring them into it. It's less to do with being a woman and more to do with being a clown. We are the court jesters. We're allowed to say and do things that are naughty. We try to achieve a party atmosphere and I am the ringleader.
■ And for you?
This gives me the chance to be someone completely different. It's an alter-ego and gives me the chance to be silly. For acting jobs, I get cast as solicitors, vicars, I get serious roles. I play respectable people and this is good. I can just grab it.
■ You've worked with Paul Critoph (Friar Tuck) for the past seven years. What's that relationship like?
It's great. It's really lovely having those people who you really trust comedically. He's a bedrock. Anthony Spargo, who plays the Sheriff of Nottingham and the villain last year is the same, just a pleasure to work with. It just makes your life a lot easier with people who bring something to the table.
■ Was it difficult to juggle the roles of director and actor?
When it got to the technical stage, I thought that was really quite tough. I am on-stage and off-stage at the same time and that was hard work. I couldn't do it with anything other than panto as I know what I'm doing and my character is always pretty much the same, so I don't have to worry about that. But it's such a team effort here, and there are so many people I trust.
■ What is it about Greenwich Theatre that keeps drawing you back?
I know this stage so well and I know what we are capable of. While James lets us get on with it, he is very much involved, and that's really what draws me in. The audiences here are brilliant year-on-year and we just know there's an audience that likes what we do.
■ What's the magic of panto for you?
It was my second year I did it, and I was waiting for the train and there was this family who had been to see the panto - the kids were singing some of the songs and quoting a couple of the jokes.
It was just beautiful, they had no idea that it was me and I had been in it. They had such a good time. It's such a lovely thing to be part of.
There aren't many things that grandma, grandad, kids, mums and dads can come and have a good time together and I love it for that reason.