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We meet Joe McFadden, the star of this year’s glittering panto at Swansea Grand Theatre

Pantomime season has finally returned to South Wales – oh yes it has! We caught up with Joe McFadden who’s starring in this year’s glittering extravaganza at Swasnsea Grand Theatre. It’s a tale as old as time and one of the hot tickets this Christmas.

Beauty & The Beast is coming to Swansea Grand Theatre this Christmas, what can people expect from the show?

This is traditional panto – but like you’ve never seen before. It’s full of all the classic comedy, music, routines and festive magic you would hope to see in a Swansea Grand panto but this year we have the most amazing Hi-tech digital set featuring beautifully animated scenes on LED screens. It’s going to be totally breath-taking and the script has been written by the brilliant Christian Patterson – a Swansea boy so it’s just perfect.

What role are you playing?

I’m playing the role of…wait for it…Barry Island who, in this version is the Gaston character. Some say he’s arrogant and aggressive – I say he’s just confident and misunderstood! He’s great fun, has a couple of fabulous musical numbers and lots of comedy – I can’t wait to bring him to life.

Are there any surprises in store for the audience?

Loads! There’s the digital set which will just bring gasps from the audience. We also have some great music which will get people dancing in their seats and we have the wonderful Matt Edwards as our comic who also brings some of his magic and illusion to the show but I won’t say anymore or I’ll need a spoiler alert!

After your Strictly Come Dancing win in 2017 will there be any dance routines?

There’s plenty of high energy dancing for me and the entire company. I’ll need to dust off my dancing shoes!

What was the Strictly experience like, any highlights. It must be quite surreal when you’re in the strictly bubble?

It was one of the most intense and surreal experiences of my life. It was such a privilege to be chosen to be part of the biggest show on television and winning it was completely mind-blowing. I feel very lucky to have been a part of it.


Doing a season in panto can also be quite demanding, what are your rituals and must-haves?

It is great fun but hard going. You have to have a strict schedule and be disciplined – no late nights, plenty of rest and sleep. One of the first things to go can be your voice. Even when you’re wearing a microphone in panto you can’t help getting into the high energy feel of it all and having as good a time as the audience. I steam between shows to give my vocal chords a bit of TLC and I eat healthily…well, as healthily as I can over Christmas with only a few pigs in blankets and a couple of Quality Street!

You’ve done lots of serious roles such as Holby City and Heartbeat, how does panto and live performance compare, is it harder to make people laugh and to generate lots of audience participation?

It really is a totally different feel from Holby and Heartbeat. I love doing drama like that and it can be very powerful for those watching but I think, especially in the current climate everyone needs that bit of pure escapism, a bit of fun and a really good night out. The British audiences know exactly what they want from a panto, so they all come ready to have a great time. They feel cheated if they don’t get to cheer and boo and shout all the usual “It’s Behind You” and “Oh yes it is” panto stuff. The script for this show is packed full of big laugh moments and plenty of participation. We all need a good night out and the crowds will get a fantastic night at the Swansea panto this year.

Are you a panto fan yourself, did you see any growing up?

My first experience of it was when I played Aladdin when I was 18 and was blown away by the atmosphere in that theatre. That audiences were so up for having a laugh. It was a real party atmosphere and brilliant to be a part of peoples Christmas traditions.

What are you most looking forward to about spending time in Swansea?

I’m really looking forward to spending some time in the city. I’d love to have a look round the new arena and, even though it’s winter I’m hoping to get the time to go for a few walks along the beach to Mumbles. Get some fresh air and blow away the cobwebs. The beaches locally are so beautiful. We have a few Swansea locals in the cast so I’m hoping they will introduce me to some great local landmarks and eateries.

What makes the perfect Christmas for you?

Family, fun, a quiet toast to those you wish were still there to share it with you and gratitude for the good things you have in your life…and panto of course.

Beauty & The Beast at Swansea Grand Theatre, 14th Dec - 15th Jan. Get your tickets now at www.swanseagrand.co.uk.

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