Aladdin is coming to the Marlowe Theatre this festive season and we got to meet two of its stars during a press day.
Read on for part one of our interview with Mister Maker.
This experience really highlighted the fact that I’m now first and foremost a mother. You see, I was looking forward to meeting Scott Maslen (most recently known for playing Jack Branning in EastEnders) but I was also very excited to be meeting one of my son’s favourite presenters on CBeebies – Mister Maker aka Phil Gallagher.
I’d heard he was a lovely man – and I couldn’t agree more! Seeing him chatting with my son, who was totally mesmerised by the encounter, was wonderful! He is still telling everyone that ‘Mister Maker liked the dinosaur on my t-shirt!’. Phil has had a long career in children’s television – one that he has worked incredibly hard at, and after spending just fifteen minutes with him you can see that all the success in recent years is thoroughly deserved. We can’t wait to see him in the pantomime!
To start the interview, I gave Phil a small gift. Knowing he is a lifelong Gillingham fan (and thinking he might need a bit of sugar to help him through the rest of the day!) I’d made him some Gillingham cupcakes. They were a lovely ice breaker to preface the questions!
What aspect of working on a pantomime do you most enjoy?
I think the great thing about pantomimes is the instant reaction from the audience. They put on amazing shows here at the Marlowe – such great production value, brilliant script, brilliant story running through it and all that is really carefully rehearsed and we put on the best show we can! I also love that every show will be different. One of the best things about panto is that anything can happen…and it usually does!
What do you find hardest?
Well, I think what is really great about Evolution is that they really push their cast and make you step outside of your comfort zone. The dance routines and the performances that are given here are on the scale of big West End shows. The dance routines in particular are really tricky! I love dancing but it takes me a little bit longer to learn the moves – but once I’ve got it I’m fine and I love it. So that is something that I really have to work on.
I have lots of fond memories of Dave Lee in the Canterbury pantomimes. What memories do you have of pantomimes as a child? Did you get to see Dave Lee in role?
I did – I got to see him perform and I’m really lucky that I got to know him well, through mutual friends and through Gillingham. We had some lovely chats at Gillingham and now what is really nice is that I’m good friends with his boys. We meet up quite often and go for a curry! Dave will never be forgotten and it is lovely that he is outside keeping an eye on us! What’s also lovely is that Dave got to know Ben Roddy really well and although filling Dave’s shoes is an impossible task, Ben is bringing something new to the role and is making it his own. They could make each other laugh – they had a nice relationship.
What do you do to relax – you’ve got so much going on, so winding down must be important.
Well, I went to the cricket recently at Canterbury and loved it. I haven’t been there enough lately and there is something really lovely about packing a lunch and watching the cricket. Spending time with my family is really important to me – seeing my mum and dad. With all the travel I’m going at the moment just being with friends and family is how I relax. I also like a bit of Bargain Hunt with a cup of tea!
My son has recently got into Bodger and Badger (!) – if you could bring back a show from your childhood which one would it be?
Oh yes – mash potato! I loved that show! If I could bring one back it would be No. 73 – do you remember that? That was the show that was made at Maidstone Studios. It was a Saturday morning show on ITV with Sandi Toksvig and (one of my heroes) Neil Buchanon and I used to love it. It was about a house where young people lived together and they had bands on and different guests. Some of the people they got on the show were amazing! I was also a big Roland Rat fan – so if your son likes Bodger and Badger, he’ll like Roland Rat!
How did you get involved with the BBC?
I came out of Canterbury Christchurch University and started right at the bottom of the ladder and I got a work experience placement. All of that came out of my time in Canterbury though because I filmed a show reel of me running around the city doing some presenting. One of my friends from my course had a contact at Disney. As they were helping me with editing my reel they said I should send it over to Disney. They called me in to do some work experience in 1998 and I stayed there for seven years. During my time there I worked my way up doing things behind and in front of the camera. When I left there as a freelancer I had the skills to pick up work that way and got a job as a studio director at CBeebies. Walking through the door on my first day I met Chris Jarvis and Pui, Sue Monroe and my best friend now, Justin Fletcher. My work at CBeebies started there. Mister Maker came about through a series of auditions – I went through all the different rounds and luckily got the job! It’s been a long hard road…but it has definitely been worth it. I absolutely love working for CBeebies!
Now I know you’re a Gillingham fan – can you remember the first match you went to?
Thank you for my cakes! I can remember the match, I can picture myself there, I can feel how small I was, I can see myself on my dad’s shoulders. I was either at the Rainham end or the Gillingham end because I was behind the goal. We won 1-0. I think I was about 4 or 5. But I can’t remember the team we played! Winning was a good start though…probably why I kept going back! What’s lovely is that I went with my dad then, 33 years ago, and we still go now together.
On one of the Gills forums at the moment there is a great post about the Gillingham Players that got away. Is there anyone you wished you had kept?
Peter Beardsley is the one that got away! A branch of my family – the Gallaghers, in fact my Grandad all lived in the north east – in and around Gateshead. So they were all Newcastle fans – missing out on a Newcastle legend like Beardsley is quite a shame. But then again we’re so lucky at the Gills. We’ve had some great teams and great games and what I love about supporting your local team, is that you get those highs and lows. But when the highs come, they are days that you never forget!
These last two questions have come from children…
What’s your favourite ice cream?
It’s probably strawberry. Yes strawberry ice cream…but for milkshakes it has to be vanilla.
What does Scrappz eat? Is it paper and buttons because I’m not allowed to eat paper or buttons?!
Oh no. He doesn’t eat paper and buttons. He is handy at getting those things for me, but he doesn’t eat them! We share the cooking together.
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Look out for part two of our interview with Scott Maslen!
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Aladdin is on at the Marlowe Theatre from Friday 28th November to Sunday 11th January.
Book now here.
Photos: Tim Stubbings Photography.