Cinderella makes a return to Hackney Empire this Christmas, offering a modernised spin on the rags to riches tale. NU People catch up with the cast, which this year includes newcomer Aisha Jawando (Motown the Musical) as well as comedian Kat B and Peter Straker.
Aisha Jawando plays Cinderella
NU People: How did you feel about being cast as the lead?
Aisha: I was shocked, grateful, in disbelief and excited all at the same time. It’s something that I looked forward to but was never hung up about or thought that, being in the industry for almost seven years now, I was owed. So I think I felt more thankful than anything. It was such a blessing and an honor to be asked.
NU People: This is your debut pantomime. How is it proving different to the West End shows you’ve performed in?
Aisha: Hackney has all the makings of any West End show. Yes that’s bold to say, but I’m saying that pantomime in itself is very different. You’re actually allowed to have real conversations with the audience and enjoy their responses as if you were having a one on one conversation. It’s great.
NU People: Was Motown the Musical your first major role?
Aisha: Yes, for most shows I was either a swing or a cover.
NU People: Have you found it hard to get work as a black woman?
Aisha: I’m actually pleased to say that I haven’t found it hard to find work as a black actress.
NU People: If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?
Aisha: I mean, I’ve never had a Plan B so I’ve never given much thought to what I would do if I wasn’t acting.
NU People: What are you most grateful for?
Aisha: I am totally grateful for my supportive network. They always have words of encouragement for me, they’re always rooting for me, praying for me and just being in constant fellowship with me.
NU People: What is in store for 2018?
Aisha: Learning everything I can from Ms Tina Turner! I’m elevated to announce that I’ve been given a role in the upcoming Tina: The Musical opening at the Aldwych in March 2018.
Kat B and Tony Whittle play the Ugly Sisters
NU People: How did you prepare for playing the role of a woman?
Kat: Being an actor and having appeared in this particular pantomime before means that I’ve been able to fine-tune the part of Ugly Sister over the years.
NU People: What do you enjoy most about being in the show?
Kat: Having fun, acting on stage with my Hackney family and hearing the audience reactions.
NU People: You’ve been in a few pantomimes at Hackney Empire, what do you like about performing there?
Kat: It’s been more than a few! It’s actually been 13 years back to back. The Empire is a special place that I hold close to my heart, it is, like its staff, unique and it attracts a diverse cross section of society.
NU People: What’s lined up for you in 2018?
Kat: Schools tour of storytelling and writing, more live gigs, stand up, djing and hosting a few weddings.
Kat B, Peter Straker (Baron Hardup) and Tony Whittle
NU People: Were you excited to be recast as Baron Hardup?
Peter: In a word, YES!
NU People: What has changed in terms of the show? Is there anything new in store for this year?
Peter: There are always subtle changes, the story is standard and the script is standard, but I’m thrilled that my new wife in the show is the lovely Susie McKenna who I have none but admired for years.
NU People: What do you like about the script?
Peter: The script is very topical, it is very of today and now. It has some adult content but nothing lewd or rude and it still encompasses the panto for family and children.
NU People: What can the audience expect from the show?
Peter: Joy! Absolute joy! It outshines any West End show in my opinion. The ensemble is the best I have worked with in a long time and the diversity within the casting speaks for itself.
Cinderella is on now at Hackney Empire until the 31st December. Tickets available at www.hackneyempire.co.uk / 020 8985 2424