As unpleasant as possible! The Sheriff is just an arrogant twit who’s completely in love with himself. He insults everyone – claiming every member of the audience is the ugliest person he’s ever seen. It’s a great character trait to get people wound up so when he’s defeated in the end the audience are just really happy. A member of the senior chorus told me that his Aunty wasn’t coming to see the show because she genuinely didn’t like me and I took that as a compliment!
How much humour, if any, is there in the part?
Loads. Arrogance is a great set up for comedy. The Sheriff struts around abusing everyone until his Mum turns up and then he turns into a whimpering wreck. He raps to Tiny Tempah because he thinks he’s “bad”. I always think the villain has to be one of the funniest characters – he really is the main driver of any panto alongside the Dame.
Have any of the screen portrayals of the role influenced you?
Alan Rickman as Sheriff in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner. It was a major Hollywood movie, he played the whole thing like a pantomime villain and it made the film. It wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful without him. I have to admit to stealing a few of his one-liners – it was genius.
The Sheriff is going to get his comeuppance at the end. Does this affect your characterisation?
It doesn’t really change the characterisation until he finally does get outwitted. At the end, I decided to have him cry like a five-year old when King Richard returns to sort him out – and it does get a lot of laughs.
Have you played the part before? If so, how have you changed it, and why?
This is the fourth time I’ve played Sheriff. He’s basically the same character, but I’m nearly 20 years older than when I first played him so there’s obviously a difference. He’s definitely got more obnoxious and outrageous – but that’s probably got more to do with me changing as a performer. I care less on stage now about what people think than I used to so he’s a lot “looser” than he was in the beginning!