From grand opera to Neverland at Bath

WHEN you learn that a performer has appeared in Russian grand opera and is about to be a principal in a pantomime, your response might be “oh no, he isn’t” – but in this year’s Bath panto the actor who plays the boy who never grows up has appeared with English National Opera.

Tim Edwards, all set to fly across the Theatre Royal’s stage as Peter Pan, made a little bit of operatic history when at the age of 11 he played Fyodor in Mussorgsky’s Boris Gudunov at the Coliseum. He was the first boy to play the part of Boris’s son at ENO – the role is usually sung by a mezzo-soprano.

In his teens, Tim says he rebelled against the constraints of  classical music and his musical parents and went over to the rock and pop side – but one role he always wanted to play was Peter Pan.

This will be his second Peter, but his first at Bath in one of the most beautiful theatres in the country.

Playing opposite him as the feisty Tinkerbell is another Bath debutante, Rachel Grundy, an experienced performer in musicals who brings an exciting new skill to this 18th century stage – she is a roller skater, who honed her talents in that most demanding of shows, Starlight Express, where cast members have to train on skates for months before they go “live” on stage.

Tinkerbell and Peter Pan are always favourites with children – “They are both really volatile and children relate to that,” says Tim.

Another dead-cert favourite – with children and parents alike – is Bath’s regular comic, the rubber-faced Jon Monie, back for his 17th pantomime, this time as the accident-prone Smee, fall-guy to the wicked Captain Hook.

Hook will be played at Bath by Paul Nicholls, who has the curious distinction of being a star pirate in two very different shows – Peter Pan’s hook-handed crocodile-fearing pirate and Gilbert & Sullivan’s swashbuckling Pirate King!

It’s the third time that Jon has played Smee and the audience can rest assured that the Wiltshire-born actor will have plenty of old routines and new jokes up his multi-coloured sleeve. He has never worked with Paul Nicholls before and is really looking forward to it.

When he isn’t delighting the panto audience, Jon is a busy actor, appears with Bristol improv group Instant Wit, provides voice-overs … and keeps hoping that some day a director will ask him to play one of Shakespeare’s clowns!

A familiar face from television, Rebecca Wheatley, plays Mrs Darling. She has played receptionist Amy Howard in Casualty for five years and has also appeared in Doctors, Holby City, Dalziel And Pascoe, Time Gentleman Please with Al Murray, Loose Women, Celebrity Ready Steady Cook and many more.

Peter Pan is at Bath Theatre Royal from 13th December to 13th January.

Pictured: Jon Monie as Smee; Tim Edwards as Peter Pan and Rachel Grundy as Tinkerbell; the line-up of principals with Paul Nicholls (centre) as Captain Hook, and Rebecca Wheatley as Mrs Darling.