2:16 PM 31st December 2021
O Yes It Is! Bradford’s Favourite Panto Star -Billy Pearce
Yorkshire born Billy Pearce continues to break box office records at the Bradford Alhambra pantomime (oh yes he does!).
After a two year absence from the Alhambra stage he is back playing King Billy in Sleeping Beauty. After the challenging past year we need our spirits lifting and who better, than Billy, to lighten the mood in a show that is spectacular, funny and entertaining.
I spoke to Billy about his career and why he adores performing in the Bradford pantomime.
How many times have you been in the pantomime in Bradford?
This will be my twenty second appearance. This year has been completely different to last year.
I learnt three different shows last Christmas!
First: there was the Bradford pantomime, which never happened. Second, the theatre manager at the Alhambra asked if I would put on a show myself similar to a variety show along with a few nights of my adult show, which also got cancelled. Third, I got offered the Manchester panto working alongside Jason Manford. I only did that for one night! The pantomime was stopped due to new Covid restrictions, I stayed in Manchester just one night and came home the next day.
Was it strange being at home all over Christmas when normally you are on stage?
Funnily enough my son who is studying at Northampton University joined me and my wife at home for most of the time so that was good.
I've had to stay in as I am classed as high risk. I have not got a spleen and only two thirds of my liver along with damaged kidneys and if that wasn't enough, on top of that my lungs collapsed after a motorcycle accident.
I couldn’t even drive people to Covid jab appointments which I would have loved to have done.
Oh dear! I know over the years you have broken a few bones when appearing in the pantomime.
That’s right, I have broken my toe plus a few ribs a couple of times.
How did that happen?
Well I was in an harness and came flying down from the Circle onto the Alhambra stage. It was my own fault as I moved the harness around because it was hard for me to balance, I thought it was in the wrong place so I lifted it up and it dug into my side and the next thing I knew I could feel my rib pop, so I have a rib missing now.
It is all part of the job though. I once ended up in A&E in Hull when it was an opening night, I flew straight into the scenery - I totally misjudged it.
Is it easy to do panto?
It is not easy at all, it is hard work. I lose at least a stone over the six weeks I do panto, you have to remember too we sometimes do two shows a day. The other thing is that you are not eating as much - I cannot eat a big dinner and then go running about on stage, I just have a small meal which just goes to show how little you can actually live on.
What was it like playing the Working Men’s Clubs?
They were always a tough audience. I did one in Bradford in the autumn and I think that the clubs are getting even harder to please, they are not like they used to be.
I was talking to my wife the other day and I said that now I am getting on a bit I should not do them anymore. You literally take your life in your hands, the reason.
Have you lost many of your fellow comedians due to Covid?
I have had a terrible time to be honest with so many of my friends who were comedians passing away plus my mother passed away too, it was Covid that finished her off.
Also my birthday depressed me when I turned seventy years old. Sir Cliff Richard is still going and he is eighty now so I hope to keep going for as long as I can. Only Cliff and I have got the same problem in that we have big bones and they pull the wrinkles out of our face!
Staffordshire University is going to provide the world’s first Pantomime degree, do you think you can learn the art of panto through a degree course?
There isn’t a definitive answer to the question; maybe I could learn something myself! Obviously if it is someone teaching who has no real experience it might be a problem as you cannot really teach comedy.
I would love a degree in pantomime though - pantomime brings out the child in everyone and I love that.
To me panto is all about childlike energy with jokes that kids like, you really need an audience for that though. Pantomime is an art form.