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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke


It’s (almost) that time of year again … oh, yes it is! The pantomime this year at Theatre Royal Plymouth is Goldilocks & the Three Bears and stars Strictly Come Dancing sensation Brendan Cole alongside double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes.

Joining them in the circus this Christmas is West End star Samuel Holmes, who is returning to his hometown of Plymouth to play Larry the Lion Tamer in this naughty but nice pantomime!

I was lucky enough to have a chat with Sam last week at the panto press launch where he became the premier interviewee in my new series Informal.

Are you excited to be performing in Plymouth this panto season?

I’m very excited. The Plymouth audiences are some of the best in the country and I find especially at panto time the audiences come ready for a laugh. It’s lovely doing other shows and big tours but panto is something completely different. It’s so much fun and you get to play around a bit more and talk to the audience and I love all that!

Do you get to spend much time in Plymouth?

I love it here so I come back as often as I can. My parents are just outside the city and I have other family here too.

So this is essentially a homecoming?

It is! I grew up coming to the Theatre Royal and watching the pantomimes. I think my first was in 1999. I remember seeing Danny LaRue, Gary Wilmot, John Inman and I sat there thinking this is it, this is what I want to do.

Is this your first time performing in panto?

I’ve been doing panto a long time. I’ve done them in places such as Cheltenham and Manchester but I’ve been desperate to do one here in Plymouth because it’s my hometown.

What can we expect to see in the show?

They’re still dissecting and changing the script around but you guys are in for a treat because the set and the costumes have all come from the London Palladium so they are huge. There are dancing elephants in the show and an animatronic gorilla... there’s everything! It’s an absolute feast for the eyes.

And you’re Larry the Lion Tamer?

Well yes, the star of the show really!

I have heard that you’re in a costume formerly worn by Julian Clary!

I am, you’re looking at it! Julian is a good friend of mine. We toured together in a play called The Dresser and when I told him I was doing this he said “You’ll probably be wearing some of my old clothes. Try not to put a stain on them!” He’s an absolute dream and it’s an honour to follow in his footsteps because I grew up watching Julian and he is a master of his craft.

These costumes are an absolute work of art and I have a big headpiece with this one too. Julian carries them off with aplomb so hopefully I’ll be able to do the same in Plymouth!

How close are you to getting a finalised script?

The script is just being worked on because they want it to suit the casting and make sure the story is just right and gives everyone a bite of the cherry. It’s just being finalised and the bits I’ve read are hilarious. It’s so funny the audience won’t be able to draw breath! James Mackenzie-Blackman (CEO and Executive Producer of TRP) is fantastic and is such a great leader. He’s asked for it to be a little bit naughtier this year so I think that’s why they’ve brought me down!

You can’t beat a bit of naughtiness!

Well it’s the one time, with all the family together, when you can do that kind of naughty 'Carry On' style humour which goes over the kids heads but the parents absolutely love it! You wouldn’t be able to do it in a Brecht play so you might as well do it in panto!

As an avid panto attendee I can always tell how much fun the cast are having on stage. Do you get the chance to play around with the script?

Yes once it’s rehearsed and set you can start having some fun! And the audiences are a big part of that because if you get a great audience, which I’m sure we will in Plymouth, they can change the direction of the script because you go with the crowd so there’s lots of room for improvisation. I like to see if I can find someone in the audience and make them part of the show. It keeps you on your toes panto!

You’ve had a varied career. What has been your favourite show so far?

I did a show called Curtains, which was the last show Ebb and Kander did, and I was fortunate enough do the farewell shows with the surviving Monty Python cast at the O2 and I think that probably was my favourite, apart from Goldilocks & the Three Bears!

And finally, regardless of gender or age, what would be your dream role?

I’ve always wanted to play Fagan in Oliver! It’s such a good role. I remember watching Rowan Atkinson in the role at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and it was an absolute masterclass so I think that Fagan is probably the one I’d say.

Well thank you so much for being my first!

No, thank you! I hope you’re going to come and watch it!


You can see Samuel as Larry the Lion Tamer in Goldilocks & the Three Bears at Theatre Royal Plymouth from 15th December 2023 until 13th January 2024. Head to to grab your tickets for what I’m sure will be a spectacular family night out.

The show also features Coronation Street star Alexandra Mardell as Goldilocks alongside comedy ventriloquist Steve Hewlett and comedian Adam C Booth.

Neill Kovacic-Clarke


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