Despite the silly jokes and slapstick comedy, pantomime is a serious business, Jonathon Morris tells Laura Davis
JONATHON MORRIS was in full-on Scouse mode when he got the call from Sleeping Beauty producer David Lee, asking him to take the role of the Court Jester in the Echo Arena’s pantomime.
He had been learning to play Ferry Across the Mersey on the guitar at the time and, we can only assume, daydreaming about the five years he spent in Liverpool filming Carla Lane’s sitcom Bread.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to be back,” he says.
“To be doing a panto of this calibre on my first trip back to Liverpool, I’m not just playing with words but this is tremendous for me.
“To be honest I didn’t recognise it from when I was working here (from 1986-1991). It was a very sociable place before but it was very localised and now it’s just like this huge metropolis but I love it.”
Will he be returning to any old haunts?
“If I can find them,” laughs Morris. “I’ve made contact with quite a few people that I’ve kept in touch with since I was here so I’ll see them. I’ve got some of the cast members of Bread coming over to see the show and I’m sure people will turn up from Elswick Street where we filmed it.
“I’m hoping that the people who did the security will turn up because I was great, great friends with them, they really looked after me on set but also we used to go training together.”
While some actors may see panto as a bit of a laugh or a handy way of supplementing their annual income, Morris is taking it very seriously indeed, he insists.
“This has to be the most energised role I’ve done in a panto,” reveals the 52-year-old.
“I’m already in training for it. I run and I do boxing training because you need to be able to come on to the stage and explode.
“I’ve done so many pantomimes with names that can’t really deliver on the green, they’re just faces to sell seats, but I think this cast is West End standard.
“It’s a serious business pantomime, to do it well twice a day. You’ve got to push yourself to the limits. I’m a very simple person to be honest. I love my profession and I just want to make sure I do the best I can and make this just what Liverpool deserves.”
Morris, who is also assisting Lee as a musical theatre consultant, sees his character as the descendant of a Shakespearean fool.
“I’ve decided to make him the village idiot who becomes the court jester,” he explains.
“The clown in Shakespeare is very much the intelligent man and the commedia dell'arte characters that created pantomime and Punch and Judy were very much of that ilk so I want to base it in that historical field.
“I know that sounds a little bit over-technical for a pantomime but I don’t think so because if you can get that right you can embrace all age groups.
“I believe that truth and energy are the hardest things to bring into panto these days.”
SLEEPING Beauty, which also stars Andrew Lancel as Carabose, Master of the Underworld, and Peter Thorne as the Dame, is at the Echo Arena’s Big Top at King’s Dock from December 14 to January 6; tickets: adults £12-£18, concs £10-£16, family ticket for four seats £47-£55; 0844 8000 400, www.echo arena.com