For Radio Shropshire’s Eric Smith, the Christmas period is the busiest time of the year. Not only does he wake up early for his breakfast show but by night, he treads the boards for Shrewsbury’s pantomime. We spoke to Eric about performing in his 17th pantomime – and why he loves it!
This year, Eric plays the Emperor of China in Aladdin. The show takes Eric back to early performances at the Music Hall and his first show for Evolution at Theatre Severn.
It was when Eric and Brad Fitt, this year’s director and Widow Twankey, first met and they have become firm friends.
He said: “I first started doing pantomime 17 years ago when Lezley Picton, the then manager of The Music Hall in Shrewsbury, invited a few of us from the radio station to have a walk-on part in Sleeping Beauty. It snowballed from there and I’ve since done nearly every panto there is.”
Eric originally came to Shropshire as career stepping stone but has now lived in the county for more than 30 years.
He said: “I’ve spent 25 of them presenting breakfast on BBC Radio Shropshire.
“People think this is a quiet county but there is lots going on here, and then again as we found out, it’s a lovely place to bring up family.
“It’s just a great place to live…..and work….and do pantomime!”
Eric said Aladdin is his favourite pantomime as it’s so much fun.
“It is so glitzy and lively with an opportunity to play the comedy to its best effect. It’s also got a very messy laundry scene, which the audience love (and I manage to avoid).,” he said.
“I love playing Baron Hardup in Cinderella – mind you, I’m usually cast as the old guy with a beautiful daughter and no money!!!!!”
Eric said the theatre company comes together about nine days before the show starts and works through it together, scene by scene.
“I keep doing it because it really is so much fun. Some of us may have met before but for most it will be the first time we will have met. It’s such a wonderful supportive atmosphere, and we laugh our way through the show,” he said.
“It’s wonderful to meet up with previous cast members, many of whom have been on their travels on cruise ships, or appearing in West End or touring shows. It’s seeing old close friends again!”
Eric does admit that by the end of the run, he is pretty exhausted.
“With six breakfast shows each week and two pantomimes a day, it’s a pretty hard schedule…especially as the radio day off (Sunday) doesn’t coincide with the panto day off.”
But he is looking forward to Christmas Day as it is the one total day off from acting and broadcasting.
He said: “We’ll be spending it with our eldest son and his partner.
“They’ve said we have to do absolutely nothing except eat and drink and put our feet up!”
Aladdin runs until Sunday, January 12. To book tickets, see the website at www.theatresevern.co.uk or call the Box Office on 01743 281281.