Sean Jones on planning panto pratfalls at the Floral Pavilion
Twelve months ago, Sean Jones should have been in rehearsals for the Floral Pavilion’s festive panto.
After a successful run in Snow White at New Brighton in 2019, in which he’d played the hapless Muddles, the North Walian actor had been invited back for the venue’s version of Beauty and the Beast.
Instead, he found himself spending Christmas working in a care home, “top to toe in PPE”.
“There were some very, very dark days,” recalls the 50-year-old, who has nurses in the family. “But it reminded me of why we were going through what we were going through. I wasn’t sitting there going ‘oh it’s so unfair I’m not doing panto’.”
A year on however and he is back at the waterfront theatre again, playing Louis La Plonk in the delayed Beauty and the Beast which opens at the Floral Pavilion on December 4.
It reunites the Blood Brothers actor with Melanie Walters who was also in the cast of his first panto for UK Productions a decade ago.
Jones had agreed to do a panto for a friend who was staging a small show in Stoke-on-Trent, and was introduced to UK Productions – the national company behind the Floral Pavilion panto - through a theatre in Rhyl where Willy Russell’s hit musical was on tour at the time.
UK Productions’ managing director Martin Dodd went to see him and offered him a job off the back of his performance as Mickey.
Isn’t Mickey to Muddles a bit of a leap though?
“In a way,” Jones counters, “if you think about it the first thing Mickey does is run on and do a little comedy poem, sitting on the edge of the stage, to the audience.
“Which isn’t a million miles away from Buttons coming on and saying ‘hello boys and girls!’"
The cast of Beauty and the Beast, and top, Sean Jones as Louis La Plonk. Photos by Brian Roberts
He’s appeared in Christmas shows practically every year since, although he admits in the beginning it was a steep learning curve.
“I remember getting my first script for UK Productions and it said ‘Silly Billy entrance’ and was just a blank space. And being an actor, I said: ‘so when do I get this bit?’
“I was told ‘oh no, you write that’. So I’ve had to learn over 10 years how to write my own opening bit, how to write comedy – which is brilliant really. And I quite often write my own little songs for the song sheet as well.”
Floral Pavilion panto regulars may recall that two years ago one of his entrances included a plunge into the pit. Does he worry about hurting himself in these pratfalls, particularly as he gets older?
“I should get a proper job!” he laughs. “I’m very much in touch with my inner child I think, and I’ll be the first to offer my services for falling off stage. I’m always begging to do some wire work or flying.
“The bigger the impact the better really.”
But, he adds, “I definitely ache as I get older!”
Panto fans will have to wait to see what Louis La Plonk has in store for New Brighton this season. All he will say is that he’s translated You’ll Never Walk Alone into “a string of French-ish words”.
One audience member will be 12-year-old daughter Elinor.
“She’s a big fan of me being stupid, so we’ll come and enjoy that,” Jones smiles. “She's very competitive with me, my daughter. She thinks I’ve got the career she should have.
“Anything I can do, she can do better.”
Beauty and the Beast is at the Floral Pavilion from December 4 to January 2. Tickets HERE