You can go for it with the character’s unpleasantness, but it is important that it is confined to the form of pantomime. In the Guild and Mummer plays of medieval England – from which panto, in part, is derived – when playing the part of Herod, the tradition was to “out Herod, Herod”. So in our panto the Sheriff’s violence towards his two underlings Numbskull and Portcullis it is done in a very Tom and Jerry cartoon-like way.
How much humour, if any, is there in the part?
There is a huge amount of humour and – although it is very over the top – it still comes from a place of trust, but played out to its fullest extent.
Have any of the screen portrayals of the role influenced you?
There are no real influences from screen portrayals of the part itself. There are certainly influences of other archetypal villains.
He’s going to get his comeuppance at the end. Does this affect your characterisation?
As the Sheriff does indeed get his comeuppance at the end, that gives you permission to “out Herod, Herod” as far as your dare. Good overcomes evil!
Have you played the part before? If so, how have you changed it, and why?
I have never played the Sheriff before, but I’ve played many other villains in other pantos.