Interview: Ben Goffe starring in Dick Whittington and His Cat, Everyman Theatre

Molly McGuire, Tweedy, Ben Goffe and Ruth Betteridge in Dick Whittington and His Cat (c) Hide The Sh

Molly McGuire, Tweedy, Ben Goffe and Ruth Betteridge in Dick Whittington and His Cat (c) Hide The Shark - Credit: Hide the Shark

We pulled up a chair, cracked open a bottle of gold top, and asked Ben to give us the lowdown on being in Harry Potter, acting with the RSC, and playing a talking, singing and dancing cat...

If you’re as excited about panto season as most of us, you’ll be delighted to hear that the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham has another cracker lined up. This year they’re promising the biggest and the best with their tale of a Gloucestershire lad going from zero to hero – of course, it’s none other than Dick Whittington.

With the cast including slapstick hero Tweedy the Clown, and Molly McGuire as Dick Whittington, the show will be packed with thrills, spills, laughs and songs for us all to sing along to. Plus, this year there’s a new kid on the block as actor Ben Goffe joins the cast as Tommy the Cat – fresh from his run at the RSC!

How have rehearsals been going, Ben?

They’re going really well thanks! We’ve got three weeks of rehearsals which, for panto, is a joy (some companies only have one week!), and Phil Clark (our director) has got a great system. Week one is all about working on Act 1, week two is all about Act 2, then week three will be about cleaning certain parts and running the show as a whole.

How are you getting on with the rest of the cast? Have you and Tweedy hit it off?

Everyone in the cast is great. I met Tweedy, Molly and Ruth back in the summer when we had the photo shoot, and we all just instantly clicked! Me and Tweedy have had some great chats and we keep making each other laugh! I know that we’re all going to have a great time over the Christmas period.

What can we expect of your character...and how long does it take you to get into that costume and make-up?

Tommy is not your average cat. He talks, sings, raps, tap dances AND plays instruments!! I’m sure the kids will be best mates with Tommy by the end of the show. I think it’ll take about 20 minutes to put on my make-up and get into the costume, but that might get quicker when I get more relaxed into the show.

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You’ve just finished your run at the RSC with Dido, Queen of Carthage. How does Dick Whittington compare with that experience?

It’s a VERY different show! I loved playing Cupid in Dido, Queen of Carthage but at times it was challenging as the script was all in iambic pentameter (Shakespearean English verse) so that made it hard to learn lines. Also, Dido is a tragic story about love and destiny, so it’s great to be in a funny, happy show! This will be my fifth production of Dick Whittington, and I have to say it’s one of my favourite pantomimes.

And what was it like being part of the Harry Potter juggernaut, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?

Working on Harry Potter was great! I was 13 at the time, and being a fan of the books, to be part of one of the films was brilliant. I was a moving picture near to The Fat Lady (you can see me on screen for five seconds!) and while I was there, I managed to walk on the sets of The Great Hall and Diagon Alley, saw some of the props being made AND even got to meet Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson!

Your father, Rusty, has landed some incredible roles over the years, from Star Wars to Willy Wonka. Did he encourage you to get into acting?

Both my parents are in the industry (my mother is a dance teacher and international dance examiner) so I’d say they both got me into it. They ran a theatre school back in Leighton Buzzard (where I’m originally from) so I started going there when I was three. I really enjoyed dancing, acting and singing so I carried on and went on to train at Italia Conti for three years. I used to always go and visit my father when he was performing in a theatre or working on a TV set, so I guess I always knew I wanted to perform.

Have you treaded the boards at the Everyman before?

This is my first time working at the Everyman but I have a lot of friends who have worked here before. They said that the theatre is beautiful and the Cheltenham audiences are great. I’m sure it’ll be the same for Dick Whittington.

...and have you had a chance to check out Cheltenham and the surrounding area yet?

I haven’t had much chance yet to explore Cheltenham but I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to be doing all my Christmas shopping here so I’m sure I’ll get to know it quite well.

Dick Whittington and His Cat runs from November 24 until January 7, 2018 at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

To book your tickets, call the box office on 01242 572573 or visit the Everyman Theatre website.