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Brief Encounter with... Aladdin's Oliver Thornton and David Bedella

Musical theatre stars Oliver Thornton and David Bedella are starring in the New Wimbledon Theatre's panto this year, Aladdin, with Jo Brand, Matthew Kelly and Britain's Got Talent's Flawless. We catch up with the pair

Oliver Thornton as Aladdin
© Craig Sugden

What's your experience of panto?
David Bedella: Well, I've only done one other in the past but I did love it! You can't help but have a good time, surrounded with holiday spirit and kids. Sometimes the holiday season can come and go before you've had time to really embrace it. With panto you live every minute of it.
Oliver Thornton: As a child I never saw a panto, so I didn't grow up with the tradition of going. I am having a great time and the script is so funny - I'm a convert.

What is the environment like working in a pantomime versus a musical?
DB: Very similar, they are both very disciplined crafts that require focus and hard work. The biggest difference is that in panto you're allowed, even encouraged, to break the fourth wall, laugh where you shouldn't and play within the confines of the play. The audience loves it and feels part of these singular moments. Great fun!
OT: There is so little time to get a panto up on its feet and running, so its a little more manic. Plus there is a huge emphasis on having fun. We've got to be having a good time so that, in turn, the audience will.

Is Jo Brand funny in rehearsals?
DB: She's a right cow! Always moaning: rarely funny. Not sure why she's here... hate her!!! (Ha Ha).
OT: Jo is inherently funny and has us all laughing, especially during choreography rehearsals.

How do you find it playing to a family-orientated audience?
DB: There's nothing better than hearing all those children erupt with laughter. So, so contagious.
OT: At the moment we are still in rehearsals so haven't yet been in front of an audience. However the show is so fast paced there is no time for kids to get bored so I'm sure it will be a joy.

What is your favourite pantomime?
DB: Why, the very one we are in now - Aladdin! Come and see us.
OT: As I said I'm a panto novice, but I don't think it gets much better than Aladdin. Especially when you're playing Aladdin!

How is it working with Flawless?
DB: They are such hard workers. Again, incredible discipline in their work and they are a good laugh.
OT: We are yet to see their routines. I'm so excited to see what they create for Wimbledon.

What's your favourite line in the show?
DB: Matthew Kelly's, "I'm anybody's for a pint of semi-skimmed and a walnut yoghurt".
OT: There is a scene in which my brother Wishee Washee gets confused over who's laundry needs to be delivered where. It's not just one funny line but a very funny scene.

David Bedella as Abanazer
© Craig Sugden

Any rehearsal room mishaps?
DB: Oh no dear! What goes on in the rehearsal room... STAYS in the rehearsal room!
OT: Not yet but I am loving working with Matthew Kelly, he is so funny and very charming.

David – is it fun playing the baddie?
DB: I do love it. He's the engine that moves the show. They are always the most fun to play.

You've both played Frank N Furter in Rocky Horror. Oliver, did you see David's performance?
OT: I did, his Frank n Furter was one of the reasons I was attracted to playing the role when they approached me. However it was also intimidating knowing I would be following in the footsteps of one of the great, great Frank n Furters.

David - who did you most take inspiration from?
DB: Well, I think you must analyse performances that have come before yours out of respect for the original intention of the piece. Once you've gleaned what you can from the 'greats' - you move on and make it your own. They should only be inspiration. Obviously the great Tim Curry was mine.

Would you ever step into the heels of Frank N Furter again?
DB: Oh goodness, I'm 50 now, you have to know when to let go...YES!! (I'm not stupid!).
OT: Yes, it was the role of a lifetime, however everything has it's time. So, should it be the right time, it'll happen, and if it isn't then I'm content to know I played it once.

What's next?
DB: I go straight from panto into Sondheim's Putting it Together which makes it's London premier on 14 January at the St James Theatre.
OT: Well, I'm very lucky in that I will now be bi-continental, working between NYC and London. So directly after panto I fly to New York.

Aladdin runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre from 6 December until 12 January 2014