Tag Archives: Paul Chuckle

Chuckles, Cotton and Pan

PETER PAN Panto Launch

The Molineux Centre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 3rd September, 2015

 

The Grand Theatre’s pantomime this year will be Peter Pan, starring the indefatigable Chuckle Brothers as a pair of hapless pirates, Paul and Barry Smee, and EastEnders’ John Altman as Captain Hook. First though, I meet newcomer Ross Carpenter who will be flying high in the title role.

Only 22 years old – but he doesn’t look it – Carpenter is a personable young man whose boyish good looks make him great casting. “All my family and friends call me Peter Pan,” he says, “because I’m like that anyway.” He says you have to be Peter Pan in real life to make Peter Pan believable; the role is “a heightened version of myself.”

No stranger to the wires, Carpenter first played the role last year in Northampton and admits the flying is daunting at first but it’s the best part! Now, I may be a boy who never grew up, but I’ll leave all the aerobatics to him.

Ross Carpenter IS Peter Pan

Ross Carpenter IS Peter Pan

Next up, I encounter TV’s Nasty Nick Cotton, John Altman who is of course much nicer in real life. (That’s what acting means, William). I ask how he’s going to approach Hook and he tells me he won’t necessarily be Cockney – although there will of course be Nick Cotton references. Pirates of the Caribbean-y, he says, a roguish pirate. He is keen to point out that he doesn’t regard himself as typecast in the role of villain, and when you look at his CV you see there is more to him than Soap’s nastiest baddie. I ask about musical theatre roles and he reveals he’d like to try something like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Walking around with Nick Cotton’s face is all right, he says. “I was worried when I first took it on but it’s OK.” He avoids pubs at closing time when people might get a bit lairy, so it does affect decisions about where to go and when, but on the whole, it’s good.

I ask about Shakespeare. “Yes, good question.” He’d love to do it but never has. He feels ready for it now. “When you study Shakespeare as a child you don’t appreciate it, you don’t understand most of it: the love story say of Romeo and Juliet, and the rival factions. You don’t realise that’s something that goes on all the time, all over the world.”

I say I can easily see him as a Richard III.

“Thank you. Or Shylock maybe. That’s something I’d like to try.”

There is something about Altman, beyond his warmth – a hint of wickedness, perhaps. “I’ll be striking fear into the hearts of the Wolverhampton peasants,” he says. And you believe it.

Slinging his Hook: John Altman talks to Jason Forrest.

Slinging his Hook: John Altman talks to Jason Forrest.

Paul and Barry Chuckle greet me with a twinkle in their eye. “It’s great to be back,” says Paul (not the small one, the other one), “We love Wolverhampton.”

Astonishingly, it will be their 49th year in panto. Add to that one they made for the telly, and Peter Pan will be their 50th. I ask what’s the secret of their longevity. “We won’t go!” laughs Paul.

Brother Barry adds, “The comedy we do is for everybody, across the board. That’s probably why we’re still going.”

Paul: We never do stuff for kids. Or for mums and dads. What we do is for everybody. If it’s not funny, we won’t do it.

As influences they cite their own dad, who was a gang show performer, Laurel and Hardy, Martin and Lewis, and Abbott and Costello.

I ask them to describe pantomime to someone who has never heard of it, a Martian perhaps, or an American.

“Fun,” says Paul. “In our pantos that’s all we aim at: comedy. It’s a fairy story –

“With laughs and a few songs thrown in,” Barry finishes the thought for him. Audiences can expect a lot of laughs, pies in faces, and nothing but fun.

Producer Michael Harrison says he sees pantomime as a distinct art form, like opera and ballet. “There are some people who can do it, and some that can’t.” Judging by the line-up I’ve met so far, I’d say this particular panto is in very safe hands.

Peter Pan runs at the Grand Theatre from December 12th until January 24th. I can’t wait!

To Smee, to you: Barry and Paul Chuckle.

To Smee, to you: Barry and Paul Chuckle.

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It’s Not Rocket Science

A 2014 SPACE ODDITY

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Saturday 19th April, 2014

When the hapless Chuckle Brothers, Paul and Barry go shopping for water pistols they inadvertently end up in outer space on one of their crazy adventures. Well, it happens. They find themselves on board a spaceship where they are enlisted by Captain Birk – he is desperate for new crew members and he’d have to be. Meanwhile, pointy-eared villain Mr Spot is scheming to take over the ship and probably the universe as well.

The plot is incidental, of course. It’s all about the dozy duo getting to do their shtick which consists of catchphrases, the corniest jokes outside of panto, and some double-talk worthy of Abbott and Costello. It’s knockabout stuff and very silly. Yes, a man of my vintage may have heard all the jokes before but to the kids in the crowd it’s all new and fresh. Mind you, the Dads nearest to me seemed to be enjoying it the most. Schoolboy humour, puerile fart jokes and word play are the order of the day, along with liberal soakings from the water pistols of course. It’s panto without the fairytale, music hall without the music.

Barry (the little one) is the fall guy to Paul (the big one)’s straight man – although they both can be as daft as each other. The patter flows easily. These two are completely at their ease – they should be: they’ve been doing this stuff for 50 years – and clearly still enjoy it. They are supported by their elder brothers, as Birk (Jimmy Patton) and Spot (Brian Patton). We are almost in Marx Brothers territory here with a very British, very Northern flavour. The gags and routines may be ancient but they’re also timeless. We get the mop drill, the ghost scene (albeit with an alien instead) and even a version of The 12 Days of Christmas, suitably doctored for the sci-fi setting.  One sequence in which they have been shrunk with squeaky voices to match could be funnier if the sound wasn’t so distorted you can’t hear everything they’re saying.

Richard Morgan fleshes out the cast nicely as Mr Ludo and there is magical support from illusionists Safire (Stuart and Jayne Loughland) – although these two bring variety to the performance, you just want Barry and Paul to come back on. There’s a ‘black theatre’ sequence that gets off to a promising start but runs out of ideas, although the youngsters I could see in the audience were lapping it up.

The Chuckle Brothers are cheeky, harmless fun, good-natured and highly skilled in an old-school way that still has lots of mileage in it.

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