An Interview with Actors Paul Hawkyard and Robin Simpson, the Sisters in Cinderella at York Theatre Royal
Paul Hawkyard’s stage work includes Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre season in York, The Railway Children at Kings Cross Theatre and the musicals Oliver!, Miss Saigon and South Pacific in the West End. On television, he was a series regular in CBeebies Old Jack’s Boat. Robin Simpson’s recent theatre credits include Much Ado About Nothing for Northern Broadsides and Macbeth & A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre.
The duo are about to step out as The Sisters in Cinderella for York Theatre Royal’s annual pantomime.
Do you have any York or Yorkshire connections?
Paul: Yes, I was born and bred in Yorkshire, Leeds in fact. My immediate family still live in the house that I was brought up in. I also have a cousin who lives in Camblesforth. I have just recently moved to Selby myself after living most of my adult life in the South of England. I also spent a lot of time working in York and class it as one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited.
Robin: I’ve lived in Yorkshire for a quarter of a century, half my lifetime, firstly in Saltaire and now in Slaithwaite near Huddersfield and I’d find it difficult to live anywhere else. York Theatre Royal has been an employer of mine many times over the last 15 years. My first job there was The Little Mermaid back in 2005.
Describe your character in Cinderella.
Paul: I’m Mandy, one of three sisters, two of them are ugly and I’m playing the third and most attractive one.
Robin: I play Manky, one of the Sisters. I’ve played the Dame now for several years but this’ll be the first time I’ll come onstage and the audience will ‘boo’ me. Well, apart from all those times when I’ve not been very good.
Have you worked with any of the Cinderella cast before?
Paul: Yes! I did Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Scottish play with Robin. I’ve known Andy Day (who is playing Dandini) for years after working on CBeebies together. Max Fulham coincidentally lives next door but one to my young son in Farnham Surrey, and the director Juliet Forster also directed me in A Midsummer Night’s Dream here in York.
What was the first pantomime you ever saw?
Paul: Not just the first pantomime I saw, but the first ever live show I saw was Aladdin at the Leeds City Varieties. It made me fall in love with live theatre.
Robin: I can’t remember which story it was, it may have been Dick Whittington, but I went with my Mum when I was quite small. It was at the local Working Men’s Club in Tyldesley, Lancs, and I enjoyed it very much. It was probably an amateur production and I can’t remember many details except that I was given some sweets.
What roles have you played in pantomime?
Paul: So far I’ve played various leading comic roles; Simple Simon, Buttons, several dame roles and the most enjoyable time was playing Abanazer in Dubai. This will be the first time I’ve played the most attractive sister.
Robin: The last few years I played the Dame at the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s panto in Huddersfield. Last year I was in The Travelling Pantomime here in York. Many years ago I also played the Dame In Tewkesbury. Weirdly, I’ve never played a different role.
What’s been your best moment in pantomime?
Paul: My best moment in pantomime was playing Dame Dot Com!!! When the milking stool leg fell off during the scene, the cow went to sit on it and separated in the middle, leading to much hilarity from both cast and audience.
Robin: Too many to choose. The first Travelling Pantomime show – being back in front of a live audience after so many setbacks that year (2020), visiting the different communities in York, working with a brilliant team, seeing people enjoy themselves.
What’s been your worst moment in pantomime?
Paul: Walking out to sing a song and finding the band had left the pit in protest of the audience throwing sweets at the stage.
Robin: There wasn’t one really and I’m not just saying that. After the catastrophe of 2020, it was so joyous to be back on stage in the Travelling Pantomime in front of an audience, laughing together. I suppose, if I had to choose, I’d say that the worst moment was cutting the run a little short because Covid cases were on the rise and it was not responsible to carry on. Oh, and getting a stick shoved up your nose three times a week by a nurse wasn’t particularly nice. Necessary though.
Paul, you are also a wildlife artist – tell us all about that.
Paul: I have a real passion for animals and art. You can view my work on Instagram. Please take the time to have a look and follow me for new works.
And finally Robin, tell us about your Storytelling work.
Robin: I’ve been storytelling for a while now and, in 2020, a lot of that moved online. Shameless promotion: do check out my Youtube channel. I have many stories on there, recorded, illustrated and edited by myself. Like many people, I’ve had to learn new skills over the last 18 months. Over the summer I’ve mostly been working in Libraries. For Leeds Libraries I ran sessions for their Healthy Holidays scheme, usually for children on free school meals, aged between 5 and 12 and numbering somewhere between 10 – 30 children. The very last day of the scheme I turned up to find three 15-year-old boys kicking a ball around in a room upstairs. My heart sank. Surely this wasn’t the right room. It was. I had to mentally re-assess what I was going to do. My session contained a couple of stories for young children, a Roald Dahl poem and a quiz on animals. It turns out, however, that they were three of the nicest, politest and interesting young men I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I could have spent much longer in their company. A quote for my publicity: as a ringing endorsement, at the end, one of them said, and I quote “Well. That wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be!”
Cinderella is at York Theatre Royal from 3 December to 2 January.
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