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Gray O'Brien on....Aladdin

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Gray O'Brien has been double crossing the residents of Coronation Street, as villainous Tony Gordon for a while now. As his current storyline nears its final act, following Roy and Hayley Cropper's escape from death - the Scottish actor has opted for to play the bad guy again. But this time, you can boo and he will hear you, as Gray is about to tread the boards at Manchester's Opera House in their panto Aladdin, which opens in December.

You are used to playing the baddy! What do you find most endearing about being the character people love to hate?

Playing the villain is much more interesting- you get all the best lines and all the ‘boos and hisses’, which is nice! Before Tony I had never actually played the villain and I only became the ‘naughty guy’ through the writers.

Aladdin features many well- known names, including Chris Fountain, Sue Devaney and Eric Potts. How are you finding working with such a star-studded cast?
It’s great- they are all lovely people. I feel quite out of my depth as it is 15 years since I last did panto, and I played the title role of Aladdin then. Also, in drama school I played Widow Twankey. (Maybe I should play Princess Jasmine next?!) It’s a different artistic endeavour for me. Chris Fountain was born to do it!

As is the case with most Christmas shows, Aladdin contains ‘song and dance’ elements. How are you all finding the musical side of panto and can we expect to hear a song from you?
Yes, I have a couple of songs to sing. The cast are great with it, as the music is all part of it. It doesn’t matter whether you are comfortable with it or not.

So Gray, can you tell us a secret? Go on... what is the secret behind the magic carpet?!
No- I can’t tell you that! Each production I’ve been in uses a slightly different technique and I wouldn’t want to break the illusion. It was worth a try!

What do you prefer about stage productions, in contrast to televsion?
That’s easy really. There are instant likes and dislikes in the theatre, and you don’t have to wait for three months to get a response.

Are there any other theatrical roles you would like to take on?
Yes- I would love to play the biggest villain of them all, Richard III!

Finally, how does Aladdin cater to all age groups?
It has things that will keep everybody laughing, from the young to the old. I even find myself laughing out loud in rehearsals!

Gray O’Brien was speaking to Rebecca Cohen.

Aladdin is at the Opera House, Manchester from 5 Dec 2009 - 3 Jan 2010.


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