Simon Fox answers some questions about the Qingdao Panto for QINGDAO(nese). Simon (pictured above on the left) has been a regular participant in the Qingdao Panto since 2008 and is well remembered for his cross dressing role in Cinderella. Find out more about Qingdao Panto, including how to help sponsor this community effort and the Qingdao Expat charity.
How did you become involved with Qingdao Panto?
I was in the audience of the 1st Qingdao Panto “Rumpelstiltskin” in 2007. My daughter [Lianne] took part in 2008’s production “Aladdin” and through ferrying her to and from rehearsals I got to know Tamara the director and other members of the cast and crew. When audition calls for “Robinson Crusoe” came up in late 2008 I could resist no longer!
What roles have you played and do you have a favorite?
My 1st role was “Swash”, half of the comic duo “Swash & Buckle”, a rather half witted Cornish pirate (disguised as a sailor) in Robinson Crusoe. Then last year I played ugly sister “Salmonella Hardup” opposite Tamara Studniski as “Listeria Hardup”. Both these roles were great fun, it’s very rewarding to be part of a double act. I think my favourite was “Salmonella”, it took me a while to get into character.. but once I was there I had trouble getting out again!
We have a great live band, very cool choreography, plenty of action, bizarre plot twists, multiple realities, corny jokes and suspect humour, bad guys, good guys and just plain silly guys… oh and a few surprises too.
Can anyone participate in the Panto as actor or crew member?
Absolutely, everybody is welcome at the auditions, whether you want to help behind the scenes or tread the boards yourself. There is a limit on the size of cast and crew required, so attending auditions doesn’t guarantee a part or position… it’s a meritocracy. We try to have a broad range of ages and nationalities, but obviously for acting roles good spoken English is very helpful.
Are Qingdao Panto actors paid for performing?
Good heavens NO! Taking on a part is a serious commitment and will completely take over your life for a few months, especially in the last 3 weeks before the performance. We all put a lot in and get a lot out, but we’re not in it for the money luvvies!
What has been the biggest challenge/satisfaction you’ve personally felt while working on the Qingdao Panto?
The biggest challenge is juggling my workaday life with the demanding rehearsal schedule. I also don’t have a natural aptitude for choreographed dancing, it takes me much longer to learn the moves than the younger performers. It’s a great feeling to be part of a big team bringing the show together and, hopefully, inspiring other cast members to push themselves to do their very best. During and after every show I’ve attended or performed in the audience have shown genuine joy and appreciation. It’s wonderful to know that you’ve been part of something that has brought laughter and joy to people’s day. Last, but by no means least, knowing that the money raised will improve, enrich and possibly even save the lives of children less fortunate in and around Qingdao.. that’s the icing on the cake!
Are you interested in directing in the future? Will you be acting indefinitely?
I do have an interest in directing but I can’t see it being possible while I’m still in fulltime work. Well, I have been known to declare that I won’t act next year… but that probably means next year! I don’t seem to need much encouragement to turn up at the auditions.
Early traditional panto productions were held outside – how does this year’s venue compare?
From an audience perspective, this year’s venue is by far the plushest, most luxurious and comfortable in the history of Qingdao Panto! In terms of performance it presents a few challenges.. there is no curtain or fly system and the stage isn’t as deep as would be ideal. But we have been truly blessed by the generosity of the Intercontinental Hotel Qingdao who have made their auditorium available free of charge and have bent over backwards to accommodate our rehearsal schedule and technical requirements. Director – Brandon Zerr-Smith has used the restrictions of the performance space to create a more stripped back, but still spectacular, show concentrating on stagecraft and using multiple simultaneously active roles in several scenes.
Knowing that the money raised will improve, enrich and possibly even save the lives of children less fortunate in and around Qingdao.. that’s the icing on the cake!
What can the audience expect in this year’s performance of Robin Hood?
Each Qingdao Panto is different to the last, by it’s very nature it’s influence and structure are both organic and transient. We yet again find ourselves with a lot of new talent, both on and off stage, which brings a vibrancy to the show. We have a great live band, very cool choreography, plenty of action, bizarre plot twists, multiple realities, corny jokes and suspect humour, bad guys, good guys and just plain silly guys… oh and a few surprises too. All in all it should be a lot of fun and a great way to support the Expat Charity.