A quick chat with
Mark Little was born in Brisbane, Australia. He trained as an actor at the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Sydney, and in the late 1980s landed the role of Joe Mangel in the Australian soap Neighbours. Mark came over to England in 1992 and has lived here ever since. He presented C4’s Big Breakfast for a while and is a regular contributor to The Wright Stuff on Channel 5.
In December, Mark will become the bad guy when he plays the villainous Fleshcreep in The Anvil pantomime Jack and th
Have you done panto before?
Yes, absolutely. This is my 12th panto. I really enjoy taking part. It’s not something we really had in Australia growing up, whereas over here panto is in children’s DNA. They seem to know instinctively what to do, it’s part of their culture.
Do you like playing the villain?
The panto villain is such a fun part to play. When I was younger I played the fool, the silly one like Buttons, but frankly that requires so much energy. So I looked at the bad guys and thought, ‘hey, I could do that’ and I love the response I get from the kids. They aren’t afraid to shout at you. As I, say “I’m only here for the boos!”
Have you ever wanted to play the dame?
Pantomime Dames are a real art form. It takes a certain skill to pull it off and I’m not sure I could do that. It also requires a lot of costume changes – that would be exhausting in its own right. At least as the villain I just need to wear one outfit – and what an outfit!
Is it hard playing for children?
Not at all. I love it. I love their honesty. They let you know exactly what they’re thinking and it’s great to see them let rip. At school they have to be quiet, at home they’re often told to keep the noise down. At panto they can be as noisy as they like… it’s great.
Panto is very different from your stand-up, how do you approach the two?
It is very different as my stand-up is most definitely for adults, but the approach is very similar. When I do stand-up I am looking for a response from my audience. I enter into a conversation with them and we discuss adult issues. I am always searching for a kind of truth. Panto provides the same interaction, just a different subject matter and, as I said before, kids give it to you large. Which do you prefer – live theatre or tv/film? Stage every time. You have nowhere to hide and you can feed off the audience reaction. With TV or film, things can be edited or watered down, there’s more censorship if you like. Theatre is more immediate, you stand up, you perform, you get a reaction. I love it
What is the attraction of England?
When I first came over here it was to put my one man show on to the world stage. I went to Edinburgh and it was so successful, I toured all round Europe and had a long run in London. Also Neighbours hit the UK big time and all of a sudden I was recognised as Joe Mangel. But I love the culture over here and slightly subversive elements. My grandfather was from Minehead and of course I have convict ancestors too! My wife’s mother was also from London as she was an Aussie war bride, so I guess we’ve come back to our roots.
Are you a country or a city boy?
I’m a country boy at heart. We lived in Brighton for 20 years and have only just moved to London. We recently became grandparents and we wanted to be near the family. But what I love about the UK is there’s much beautiful countryside and in such a small area – very different from the vast expanses of Australia. One of the great things about London is getting out of London – you can go just a few miles and you hear different accents, local foods and traditions and get a real flavour of the area you are in. I particularly love the West Country and going down to Cornwall. As well as Scotland and wild parts of the coast.
Back to the pantomime – what should children be wary of when Fleshcreep appears on stage?
Fleshcreep is an extraordinary character. He’s really full of himself and the big I am, when he’s intimidating Jack and the other characters, but when the giant appears he’s a quivering wreck and really weak. The kids love that because they can see straight through the bravado. I also love my costume – I’m not sure how to describe it. I look like a kind of demented avocado. A cross between George Osborne and Ozzy Osbourne. What can people expect from Jack and the Beanstalk? It’s a truly traditional pantomime, with all the usual elements – songs, slapstick, cheers, boos and a lot of laughs. One for grandparents to little ones. But be careful there’s a nasty giant waiting to gobble all the children up. Be afraid, be very afraid...
Jack and the Beanstalk, The Anvil, Basingstoke, December 10 to January 3