An Interview with Actor, Neil Hurst
Silly Simon, better known as Neil Hurst, took a break from tickling the ribs with Gareth Gates at Hull New Theatre, to chat to Roger Crow about Jack and the Beanstalk.
Neil, now that last year’s panto is ‘behind you’, what can we look forward to in Jack and the Beanstalk?
There is so much to look forward to this year. Action, adventure and lots of laughs. Plus, I’ve been collecting the rudest jokes possible from my kids, so you can be guaranteed a good old giggle – and some jokes you’ll have to explain to the little ones in the car on the way home!
What are the key three things for a good panto?
Story, comedy and the audience. The story is vital to keep the audience engaged. If the story is badly told then the kids switch off. However, to balance that is the comedy element. Great routines, slapstick and loads of silly jokes. But above all, the most important part of any pantomime is YOU the audience. We’ve been rehearsing the show with a major character missing, the audience.
“The nicest guy in showbiz”
What’s the first panto you saw as a kid, and will you ever forget it?
I won a colouring completion in the local newspaper and won a ticket to see Goldilocks and the Three Bears… I was only five or six, but I can still remember being terrified by the grotesque bear costumes.
What do you hope the new generation of panto fans will take from your latest extravaganza?
Hopefully we’ll have packed houses of families and schools who are bringing children to the pantomime, and possibly, the theatre for the very first time. It’s the most important part of any pantomime to make sure those children have a super special time; if you get them excited and interested in the show, then you have an audience member for life. In this panto we’ve used some fantastic special effects with our 3D scene which really brings the show alive.
What is your panto buddy Gareth Gates’ most appealing, and unappealing quality?
Ha ha. Well Gareth is possibly the nicest guy in showbiz. Top guy, lovely to chat to BUT… Gareth eats very, very healthy. So much so that his meals are usually lots of vegetables. Our dressing rooms have adjoining doors, so occasionally we open them for a natter… but never after lunch, because his vegetables absolutely stink. Not by farting I must add!!
Will there be plenty of gags for grown-ups – or do they have to bring their own?
Oh there most definitely will be jokes for the grown ups – nothing pleases me more than seeing a small child in the audience turn to Daddy and ask why he’s laughing. I love the fact that after the show the Mum or Dad might have to explain some of my ruder jokes to the kids.
You’re co-starring with Will Ferrell in a certain Christmas advert. Which Hollywood star would you want to play you in a film and why?
Well obviously it’d be someone like Zac Efron or Bradley Cooper to match up with the looks… but I think there’s only one guy I’d allow play me on screen… Mr Tumble.
What have you got planned for Christmas, when you’re not reducing all of us to giggling idiots?
Christmas is usually a quiet day for me. I like to spend it at home with my girls – my wife and our two daughters. However, this year will be the first with our beautiful Beagle puppy ‘Happy’ (we named her that because I agreed to buy the girls a dog when I was in Snow White in Hull back in 2021). So Christmas and New Year will be full of eating lots of food and walking the dog. Perfect!
Neil, Gareth Gates and the Jack and the Beanstalk crew will be at Hull New Theatre until December 31, 2022
images: Ant Robling