This year, Mark Rhodes is joining the cast of the Cinderella pantomime at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre playing the role of Dandini, with the show running from 3rd December until 2nd January 2022, and he will be performing alongside Gemma Naylor (Cinderella), Andy Collins (Buttons), La Voix (Fairy Godmother) and Nick Harris (Baron Hardup). Since reaching the final of Pop Idol in 2003, Mark has worked alongside fellow contestant Sam Nixon as the television hosting duo Sam & Mark, and having worked on CBBC for a number of years, they could recently be seen presenting the revival of Crackerjack!. Talking with us, Mark chats about his upcoming role of Dandini in Cinderella, working as Sam & Mark and presenting the revival of Crackerjack! on CBBC.
You will be playing Dandini in Aylesbury Waterside Theatre’s pantomime of Cinderella, what are you looking forward to for playing the character this Christmas?
It will be the first time playing Dandini and also doing Cinderella so it will be a new experience. Dandini is cheeky and has a subtle charm to him so hopefully I can portray that when I play him.
What can audiences expect from your performance of Dandini?
Interaction with the audience is what I enjoy the most with pantomime and after reading the script and seeing what type of character Dandini is that is exactly what the audience can expect and I can’t wait.
Why would you recommend booking tickets to see Cinderella at Aylesbury?
Because it’s going to be a fun-packed, interactive experience that we have missed for the last eighteen months. There really is nothing like going to a live event where you are being entertained. This light-hearted show is what it’s all about, especially leading up to Christmas.
How do you find rehearsing for your role and meeting the cast for the first time?
I absolutely love that first day feeling. It’s a bit like first day at school… but more fun! I’m lucky in the fact I have already worked with Gemma (Naylor) who plays Cinderella and Nick (Harris) who plays Baron but everyone seems so nice and I can’t wait to get started.
Is there anything you enjoy most about appearing in pantomimes?
The joy it brings to people especially kids. When I was younger, going to a panto was a Christmas present from my family so the love for it is ingrained in me. So to be a small part of bringing that joy is something I don’t take for granted.
What is it like interacting with a pantomime audience?
Without doubt that is my favourite part. Pantomime is slightly different in that respect as it doesn’t take itself too seriously and I believe that is why it is loved by the masses so much. It’s obviously live so anything can happen but if/when something goes wrong, the audience are always on your side.
You’ve been working with Sam Nixon since being contestants on Pop Idol in 2003, what do you enjoy about your partnership?
The fact we both have the same silly sense of humour and we can tell each other anything. I believe that is why we have worked so well together for almost twenty years. He’s not my work colleague, he’s my brother.
Can you tell us about your time so far presenting Crackerjack! with Sam?
It’s been fantastic. I remember the first show and we had invited some of the previous presenters from way back to come and be guests. I was so nervous as we didn’t know how they would react but they were all so lovely. Stu Francis and Bernie Clifton did a sketch with us and it’s something I will never forget.
What is your favourite aspect of working with CBBC over the years and do you have any stand-out highlights?
I have always loved doing comedy. Sketches, games, songs etc… and I think I’ve been able to do all those things over the years and that’s been amazing. Stand-out highlights have got to be winning two BAFTAs. I’m a daft lad from Wolverhampton, that shouldn’t happen to me 😊.
Where does your love of performing come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
I’ve always wanted to make people smile, whether that’s through pulling funny faces and dancing in front of the family or singing in front of millions on Pop Idol, it’s all the same to me. All I want is for people to go “he’s alright he is”.
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