Over Christmas 2021, Alexei Hawkey was in the cast of Beauty and the Beast at Epsom Playhouse, also understudying the role of Maurice, and his previous pantomimes have included Aladdin – in which he played PC Me – and Peter Pan in Chesterfield, covering the leading role of Peter. For Alexei’s first contract after graduating from Performers College in 2019, he joined P&O Britannia for their on-board shows just before COVID stopped cruises, and he was able to return to Britannia during the pandemic for further performances. While cruises and theatres were closed, Alexei held workshops and was invited by dance schools to teach their students. Alexei answers our questions about performing in pantomimes, understudying Maurice in Beauty and the Beast and his time on P&O Britannia.
Most recently, you performed in Beauty and the Beast at Epsom Playhouse, what was the pantomime like to be part of?
Performing in Beauty and the Beast at the Epsom Playhouse for Spillers Pantomimes was great fun from start to finish. Obviously with COVID being around, we did have a few re-blocks/cast change – but as a team we pulled through and as they say “the show must go on!”.
It was great to finally be back in pantoland!
You understudied the role of Maurice, what was the character like to play and how was it seeing the audience response to the show?
Understudying the role of Maurice was a right laugh and such a great role to play, which I had the opportunity to perform several times. He is such a crazy, strong, wacky character, originally played by amazing the Jamie Bannerman. In which I hope I did him justice.
The audiences’ response to the show was very enthusiastic, getting fully involved with all aspects of the show from start to finish.
Having performed in pantomimes on a number of occasions, what do you enjoy most about this type of production?
I love panto! (Oh No You Don’t!).
It’s exciting, lively, colourful, funny and all-round laughs. It’s suited for everyone! I like the audience participation and everyone getting involved. Also, usually it’s young people’s first insight into live theatre.
Can you tell us about some of the other pantomimes you’ve been part of, which has included going on as Peter Pan in Chesterfield?
From a young age, I did local pantomimes, from a little one through to playing the comedy roles, such as; Billy Goose in Mother Goose and Buttons in Cinderella. Later on in life, I worked with different professional pantomime companies, being in the ensemble and also lead roles, and working alongside well-known celebrities and professionals in the industry. One year I played PC Me in Aladdin (comedy-duo policemen).
I got to fly through the air on wires as Peter Pan for PHA and that was an incredible experience and one I’ll always remember. I learnt the part overnight and the whole cast and crew were so supportive. It was such a great experience and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.
What was the experience like working for P&O Cruises for the first time and how was it returning during the pandemic?
P&O Britannia was my first contract after graduating from Performers.
Before going onto the ship, I was in rehearsals in Southampton at The Academy learning nine different shows prior to boarding the ship. I learnt so much during the rehearsal process and learnt so many new skills, such as Irish dancing being one of them.
Travelling around the Caribbean was an absolute dream. Meeting and working with some incredible people, who I’m lucky to call good friends.
Returning to cruise life during the pandemic was very different from before, with loads of restrictions. We were very distant from passengers. We had no shore leave for the whole contract whilst I was on there.
Personally, it was a very hard contract mentally and physically. However, I came off this contract stronger and ready to take on new challenges.
Did you have a favourite aspect of performing on the cruise and what originally drew you to it?
My favourite aspect of performing on Britannia was the variety of challenging different shows.
Every day waking up in a new Caribbean island.
Sailing around the Caribbean in the sun while performing, doing what you love was an absolute dream. I loved the travelling and adventures.
Cruises was always something I wanted to do from a young age. And what drew me originally to cruises, was the opportunity to travel, perform and meet people you wouldn’t necessarily meet. Learning new things, understanding different cultures and ways of living.
As a dancer, you have performed at MOVE IT – Gran Toreo, the FA Cup Opening Ceremony and NFL Opening Ceremony, what were these like to do?
These were amazing opportunities I had during training at Performers. Working with different choreographers within the industry.
In 2019, you graduated from Performers College, how was your time there and what encouraged you to attend?
I throughly enjoyed my time at Performers. The training you get there is amazing and I wouldn’t be where I am now without their training and support.
Seeing Performers perform at MOVE IT – especially Emma Rogers’ choreography really drew me towards Performers. I was so inspired and amazed watching their pieces. I remember after my audition day, I knew that it was the place for me. I’m so pleased I graduated from this college.
Can you say about some of the shows you were part of whilst there, which included Thoroughly Modern Millie and Living On The Edge?
During my time at Performers, we got the opportunity to perform numerous times and also In-Houses working on different musicals and creating our own shows using musicians/artists to create an original story with their songs.
At the end of year, we did an end of year show that showcased all three years at the Towngate Theatre in Basildon. Showcasing a wide range of dance styles and musical theatre.
Where does your love of performing come from and how did you start?
My love for performing started when I did a production of Oliver! when I was eight years old with Littlehampton Musical Comedy Society. And since then, the rest is history.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
I am a massive theatregoer. I’ve probably seen most shows that are currently in town or on tour. I love watching live theatre, musicals, plays. It’s really hard to choose which theatre shows are my favourite. I love them all.
How did you keep busy during the pandemic and what do you enjoy doing away from your career?
During the pandemic, I worked at Tesco Extra as a Team Support. Every little helps!
Alongside this I held a few workshops and got invited to dance schools to teach and share my passion to up and coming performers.
Away from my career, I love seeing friends and family. Going on adventures and having the time of my life.
Have you been given any advice over the years which has stuck with you?
I use a few sayings that I say to myself often, but the main ones would be…
Less is more.
Always remember why you started.
Don’t give up on your dreams.
What are you hoping 2022 brings for your career?
I’m hoping 2022 brings me another year of fun-filled, exciting opportunities. No one knows what the future holds, the unknown is the exciting part of the journey.
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