Shane Richie in Dick Whittington
Shane Richie in Dick Whittington
Panto fun this festive season at New Wimbledon Theatre
The Christmas clock is ticking louder and louder each passing day – and Christmas cannot be complete without a pantomime. New Wimbledon Theatre’s Dick Whittington is among the fairest in all the land, starring Surrey’s very own EastEnder, Shane Richie, alongside Peter Piper and Hiba Elchikhe.
Shane’s career spans over four decades of theatre, radio, music, television and film. He appeared in hit TV shows and small independent productions, he was a radio presenter and recorded his own country album. But his love for panto is apparent, particularly when it comes to artistic freedom. “Of course, there is a story – or a thinly veiled story,” he says, “But the rules are whatever I want them to be,” he laughs. “And unlike other shows, the audience is another character. No two shows are ever the same.”
“The hard part is to make it looks easy. I do believe it’s an art form. But it is also the chance for both audiences and the cast to just have a good time.” Easier said than done combining the two, one might say – although Shane’s extensive panto experience works in his favour. As a child, he fondly remembers going to pantomimes and enjoying the interactions between audiences and actors. On stage, he has appeared as Aladdin, Dick, Buttons and Robin Hood all over the country. But New Wimbledon Theatre feels special, as it is so close to his home in Reigate, Surrey. “I can be home by eight!” he laughs. “And my children will definitely come to see the panto. Sadly, times are different now. Because of Covid, they can’t come backstage at the moment, but that may change between now and then.” He and his family all love Reigate, “I’ve got a lot of friends in the area. And what’s great is no-one has watched EastEnders around there!”
He gets along swimmingly with his castmates, in particular with the effortlessly funny Peter Piper with whom he shares genuine friendship on and off the stage. “When you’re on stage together, it’s like being in the trenches and you can find so much out about another person,” explains Peter. The overwhelming feeling backstage is that of excitement. After all, theatre is still slowly getting back up after the past dangerously dark and quiet 18 months. “It’s going to be fantastic to hear all the children arriving at a theatre again,” says Peter.
Over the lockdown, Shane tried to stay creative. As the whole world moved online, so did his artistic endeavours. He took the title role in a streamed one-man play Scaramouche Jones, where he impersonated a 100-year-old clown who, on the eve of the new millennium, decides to share his life story. His performance in this famously larger-than-life play was highly acclaimed.
When he’s not acting, hosting or recording his music – which is rarely – he’s collecting retro toys, pop culture items and other memorabilia. “I love going to charity auctions and old vintage toy stores up and down the country. I give some of my items to charities as well.”
So what’s next for Shane Richie? He will see what the future holds for him. Whatever it is, without a doubt it is going to be exciting.
Dick Whittington, 4 Dec to 2 Jan, New Wimbledon Theatre
Pictured below – the cast went on a tour of London for the panto launch, including Wimbledon stadium…!