NOVEMBER 23, 2023

Sleeping Beauty News: The first question, writes Harry Mottram, that should be asked of any would-be-suitor of sleeping maidens is: ‘is it OK to kiss them?’
“Consent is the word these days,” said Neil McDermott who is playing Prince Vincent in Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal Bath this season, “It’s a very 21st century conundrum for princes – but we’re not in 15th century France thankfully!”
The French folk tale originally called La Belle au bois dormant is this year’s pantomime – and as you might imagine it is given the traditional panto treatment with song and dance, slapstick, pathos, romance, high comedy and of course good triumphing over evil.

Neil McDermott

Neil is perhaps best known as bad boy and jailbird Ryan Malloy in Eastenders so it’s a transformation from filming short scenes in a soap opera to a full on run treading the boards as folk hero royalty. How does he cope?
“It’s two shows a day, six days a week, so getting your sleep is essential,” he said, “You need to stay healthy by eating all the right foods like fruit and veg. We’ve just had a new baby so I’m essentially coming to Bath to have a sleep and a rest!”
Princess Rose pricks her finger on a spindell when tricked by a wicked witch and falls asleep – and can only be awoken by her true love.
“I was in Bath earlier this year in Home, I’m Darling, which was great, the audience reaction was fantastic and Bath is a great theatre going city.”
As a boy Neil was more into sport and played football for Chelsea’s youth team as a teenager but also enjoyed school plays and to his father’s surprise instead of the football league he joined the National Youth Music School and after three years graduated as a professional actor.
“My dad took a lot of convincing but now bless them my parents come to see me when I’m in the theatre all round the country,” he said.
Born in Southport Neil now lives in London and is married to actress Michelle Edwards and they have three children.

Jon Monie

In complete contrast to the dashing prince is Lester the Jester played by Jon Monie – who has been a fixture for the pantomime season in Bath for some years – typecast as the loverable fool.
“At school I wasn’t either a nerd or in with the cool crowd but in the middle as I made people laugh,” he said, “I was the one who impersonated the teachers but I wasn’t sporty or academic but I liked being in school productions.”
It was his English teacher at Bath’s King Edwards School that saw talent in the young jester and encouraged him to taking acting seriously. This led him to study drama at Goldsmiths University following which he ‘fell into’ television presenting and eventually the pantomimes with the late Chris Harris.
When children are asked to step up onto the stage during the pantomime Jon’s improvisional skills are required – especially when the children come up with a line that could leave a seasoned actor speechless.
“I usually have one or two stock answers up my sleeve,” he said, “ as you never know what they’ll say. Some children are dumbstruck what with the footlights while there’s always one that will come out with something unexpected when I ask them what they want for Christmas.”
Sleeping Beauty runs Thursday Dec 7 to Sunday 7 January at the Theatre Royal Bath.

The main photo shows Maisie Sellwood as Princess Rose.