With a string of west end and regional theatre credits, Ben is also a regular in ‘panto-land’ having previously played ‘Ugly Sister’ in Cinderella for QDOS alongside The Krankies and Stefan Dennis at the Wolverhampton Grand and roles in Puss In Boots (Oxford Playhouse) and Cinderella for the London Bubble at The Cochran.
An accomplished pianist, Ben regularly plays for concerts and cabarets accompanying both himself and other artistes, and has many credits as musical director. Ben is a regular presenter on BBC Radio Bristol’s Good Morning Show.
1. Tell us about the KidzRus theatre company – and your involvement with them?
Kidz R Us is a youth theatre based in St Ives with approximately 70 members. They own their own theatre in the heart of St Ives and produce about 5 shows a year which play at the theatre and in the summer at the open air Minack Theatre. I was approached to work with Kidz when they were doing Beauty and the Beast as I had played ‘Lumiere’ on the UK tour and Pamela Rudge (Head Of Singing at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and "old" friend!) had been working with them and suggested me! I soon became very attached to both the group and St Ives and so jumped at the chance to work with them again on Cinderella.
2. What were the challenges with working with a youth theatre group, albeit a well-respected talented group?
When working with such a wide age range you are constantly reminding yourself to "lead" the cast on all levels - which can present challenges - but the standard of dedication to the show is second to none from the Kidz (and the parents and volunteers who help run it!) - They rehearse 2 nights a week and at least every other weekend to ensure the highest possible standards (which of course is great for me as it keeps my standards up too!!) Phil Barnet who founded the group and still runs it leads a very tight ship BUT the emphasis is on fun and developing the confidence and skills of the members as well as producing the highest quality show possible.
3. Will the production stick to the traditional story or are there some modern twists?
In order to involve as many Kidz as possible we have a few characters from “panto-land” you may not always expect to see in Cinderella but generally speaking it is a fairly traditional panto, written by Mike Ezra with all the usual "he's behind you's" etc....
4. Under you directorship do you think this performance will win an award as the Kidz theatre does seem to collect them?
Haha!!!! Kidz have won many awards over the years but as they are amateur theatre awards, Phil is always very honest about the professional help they receive not only from me but also Pamela Rudge and Rhona Cleland who choreographs (amongst others), and so they don't always enter local awards. However, of course it would be lovely - and the Kidz are the ones who do most of the hard work and bring the talent to the table so in my opinion they sure do deserve it!!!!!
5. What is the appeal of pantomime for you?
EVERYTHING!!! The stories, the family feel to the shows, the songs, sets, costumes, tradition, gags, routines.......as I say everything!!
6. What part of being an Ugly Sister do you enjoy most?
Certainly not the make up - which I find very hard to do - or the heels (last year I fell off them and broke a finger!) but for me I love getting the laughs and being nasty to Cinders as in real life I'm very nice (except when telling the Kidz not to talk!!!) so it's a good excuse to tap into my dark side!
7. What’s next for you?
Hopefully some more work with Kidz next year, and more acting work! I've just completed a course in TV Presenting as I do a regular radio spot and would like to expand into TV......we'll see....!!! But first it's off to Hastings to don my Ugly Sister outfits!!!!!
Cinderella runs at St Ives Theatre from 20 - 21 and 27 – 29 December 2010 at 2pm and 6pm daily.