As February Half Term draws ever nearer, so too does The Wight Strollers annual pantomime. This year, it’s Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, at Medina Theatre on 16th, 17th and 23rd February, and it looks like it’s going to be another fabulous show! IW Theatre caught up with their Robin, played by Emily Scotcher, to find out more…
Robin Hood is quite the legendary character – what’s been the biggest challenge about playing him?
We’ve had male principal boys for a few years now – the last female-played principal boy was Prince Charming in Cinderella 2011 – so, believe it or not, I was actually a bit nervous because of that! But those nerves disappeared within a few rehearsals, and it’s actually been quite exciting to return to the tradition of a panto principal boy being played by a girl – it’s worked really well.
The most important question, of course, is are you enjoying playing him?
Very much so – Robin is a legend! I wasn’t expecting to end up playing him, let alone to love playing him quite this much – but I really do, he’s fantastic. It’s quite poignant for me as a show, too, because in February 1999 I played one of the Babes, in 2012 I was part of the ensemble and also took on the role of the Musical Director, and now I’m playing Robin Hood and have co-written the script – so my love affair with this particular pantomime is a lengthy one, and it does have a special place in my heart. Not only that, but I realised last week that this is my 25th pantomime with The Wight Strollers…playing Robin is a perfect way to celebrate, I think!
Not looking to cause a row, but…who’s your favourite Merry Man?
I can’t answer that! They’re all unique, made even moreso by the wonderful team playing them. I love working with all of them. We’ve got a real mix of Strollers stalwarts and new faces making up the gang – Ben Spurling, Tim Smith, Rob Steel-Bingham, Rob Jones and Ches Checkley-Hill – and we’ve all really bonded. We have a lot of fun together, and I think that really translates into the show – have I evaded the question well enough?
…We’ll let you off. What’s your favourite scene in the show to perform?
That’s not any easier to answer – can I have more than one? My favourite scene is actually the last scene. I won’t spoil anything but there are some brilliantly comedic moments. And the other scene I love is the opening scene of Act 2 – there are two fabulous musical numbers and an epic fight!
And what your favourite song?
I love every single one. We’ve got a real mix of music, there’s something everyone will recognise! But right up there for me has to be ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ – it’s a number Robin performs with a team of five dancers and some of the ensemble, and it’s a proper upbeat, feel-good number. My other favourite is well-known amongst the cast, but I won’t spoil it for you – all I will say is that it’s spectacular, and I guarantee 99% of the audience will be singing along! And my other, other favourite is one the Sheriff and his henchmen sing. And my other, other favourite is…just kidding! But I really do love them all!
That leads us nicely on to the other characters – we’ve touched on the Merry Men, but this is a large cast, isn’t it? How does that affect the dynamic of the show?
It certainly makes it more challenging in rehearsals, because the cast is huge! You’ve got Robin and the Merry Men, the Sheriff and his two henchmen, Nanny Nina and Maid Marian, the Babes, the Mighty Oak and the Forest Fairy, King Richard, the Equerry, several featured cameo roles, the ensemble and the dance troupe. And they’re all amazing. All the roles, scenes and songs truly intertwine, which makes for a real on-stage family feel. But then I always say that about the company, regardless of which panto we’re doing!
You’ve been a Wight Stroller for a long time – what’s your standout moment?
There are too many to count! If I had to pick just one then it would be Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as a whole. I will never, ever get over that – I still can’t watch the DVD without crying. To me, that was perfect. Seriously, though, there are so many moments that are ‘stand-out’ for me through the years, big and small, we’d be here for hours if I was to list them all!!
So how did it all start? How did you get to be a part of the company?
I have Mum to thank for that – I am unspeakably grateful to her for putting me on stage in the first place. She’s been a member of the company in its various forms since she was 9, and it’s her dedication to it and love for it that first sparked mine.
You’re clearly passionate about The Wight Strollers – it might be an obvious question, but why?
Since I was four years old, the Strollers have been a part of my life. I’ve grown up on the Medina Theatre stage, with this company – there are long-standing members still on stage and behind-the-scenes today who have watched me grow up, there are younger members that I’ve now watched grow up, and there are new members that I’m watching fall in love with the company and its ethos year on year – and that is so special. We’re all driven by the same thing, and it’s what the Strollers has always been, and will always be, about: raising as much money for charity as possible whilst having as much fun as possible!
You really do love it, don’t you?
Of course I do. There’s actually a line in one of the songs in Robin Hood – “When I think how far I’ve come, I can’t believe it, and then I see it – in them I see family” – and I genuinely well up singing it, because it really does sum up the last 25 years with the Strollers. I love this company with every fibre of my being and there is nothing that could stop me going on stage with them. In fact, even when I got hit by a car I dragged myself to rehearsal five days later – I was all but asleep in a corner, dosed up on heavy-duty painkillers, battered and bruised, and most definitely should have been in bed, but I was there!
Having been performing with the Strollers for so long, it must come easily now, stepping out at Medina Theatre – do you ever get nervous?
Always. But it only really hits me in the minute or two before I go on…that’s when the deep breaths happen! I think a few nerves are good, though, they keep you on your toes – nerves have only ever driven me to tears once!
Really? What happened?
It was the first performance of Joseph. I was stood behind the curtain and heard those opening chords…the tears started and just wouldn’t stop. I don’t think it was so much nerves, more a desperate need to nail it – the Narrator was my all-time dream role, since I was 8 years old, and I can’t put into words how much it meant to me. I took myself into the scene dock, sobbed my way through the first 30 seconds of the Overture, did a quick-fix on my eye makeup and was back with about 3 seconds to spare before the curtain opened!
And what about pre-show rituals? Do you have any?
I do indeed. My ‘thing’ is that I have to be at the side of the stage in time to run every line I have in the upcoming scene, in order, at speed. If I don’t make it through the scene before I have to go on, I feel uneasy! On show days I also have a long list of things I will and won’t eat or drink, but other than that I’m low-maintenance really – I just get into the ‘zone’ and that’s that!
And last, but not least, turning back to Robin Hood…why should people buy tickets?
Where do I start? It has action, adventure, comedy, romance, heroes and villains. It has some incredible songs and dances, the costumes are stunning, the set is gorgeous, and it really does have something for all ages. And it’s all in aid of local Island charities and good causes – this year we’re supporting WightSAR, The IOW Foodbank, The IW Alzheimer Cafe, The COOK Project, the IW team for the World Scout Jamboree 2019 and 1st Ryde Brownies. What’s not to like?
We’ll see you at Half Term then!
You will indeed…I’m going to need all the help I can get to beat that dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham! Hail, Merry Men!
Catch Emily and the rest of the cast in action by booking your tickets either in person from Medina Theatre Box Office, by phoning 01983 823884 or by visiting www.medinatheatre.co.uk. At just £10 for Adults and £8 for Under 14s, it’s a bargain – don’t miss out!