In this year’s pantomime Peter Pan at Stockport Plaza, Brian Capron is set to play Captain Hook when the show opens on 8th December until 7th January, and Brian has previously played the role including in the Broadway musical version at The Lowry. Brian started his musical theatre career in The Rocky Horror Show as the Narrator in the West End and on tour, and some of his further stage shows are Guys and Dolls (performing opposite Claire Sweeney), Stepping Out (for which Brian had to learn tap dancing), and he worked alongside Lesley Sharp in Harper Regan at the National Theatre. Also having a screen career, Brian played Richard Hillman in Coronation Street, which saw him appear in a two-handed episode with Helen Worth (Gail Platt), and amongst his many TV projects, he has played Ozias Harding in Where the Heart Is, Murray McCoy in Full House and Mr. Hopwood in Grange Hill. Chatting to us, Brian answered our questions about playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan at Stockport Plaza, starting his musical theatre career in The Rocky Horror Show and what Richard Hillman was like to play in Coronation Street.
What are you looking forward to for playing Captain Hook in Stockport Plaza’s pantomime of Peter Pan this Christmas?
It’s a double whammy for me because I have played The Plaza twice before and I know everybody, they are all so friendly and welcoming and we get looked after so well. Having met most of the cast at the press briefing in the summer, I know we are going to have such fun with it this year. And, of course, out of all the baddie roles, Captain Hook is my favourite character.
We understand you’ve played Captain Hook previously, how is it getting into character and what is he like to play?
I’ve played Hook two or three times before, once in the Broadway musical version of Peter Pan at The Lowry and, interestingly, at that time, I did a joint publicity photo with John Challis (Boycie) who was doing Hook at The Plaza, so I’m stepping into his shoes this year, we were friends and he was such a nice guy.
I love Hook because he’s so vain, stupid, and thin-skinned. He’s a great baddie too because he’s also such a mean badass that the kids in the audience can really go to town hating on him! As soon as I get that fabulous costume and wig on I’m in character and I kind of imagine him like one of those vain French kings surrounded by halls of mirrors.
How is it interacting with the audience as the villain?
It’s the absolute best playing the villain because of the massive reaction from the audience. It’s so great seeing them react to all the bad stuff and, of course, I love playing up to them, the only thing you have to watch is not losing your voice with sometimes over a thousand people booing you, thank God for mics!
What is it like being part of a pantomime cast and what do you enjoy most about performing in them?
It’s such fun being in a panto cast because it’s the only time as a performer that you have this back and forth with the audience. There are always moments between us on stage where something happens that’s spontaneous and makes you laugh and if the audience is in on the joke you have such free rein to run with it. It’s also a chance for me to work with performers more on the variety or musical theatre side of the business, which is such fun. There are always a lot of young performers perhaps just starting out and it’s so invigorating to work with them.
Why would you recommend families book tickets to see Peter Pan at Stockport Plaza?
Families will love this show because it has everything, fabulous costumes and sets, great singing and dancing, pirates, Indians, a big fluffy dog, a crocodile and a gorilla! It’s a fantastic story and, of course, Peter Pan and the children fly! And if that’s not enough, you have the fabulous Wurlitzer organ rising up out of the orchestra pit playing all your favourite Christmas songs all the way up to curtain up.
What are some of your stand-out memories from your time playing Richard Hillman in Coronation Street, and what were your storylines like to work on?
So many stand-out memories from Corrie, it was such an exciting rollercoaster ride. I loved doing the two-handed episode with Helen Worth where Richard confesses all and she famously called him Norman Bates with a briefcase. And, of course, Richard’s spectacular exit with the car going into the canal was amazing. It was a very special time for me and I will be forever grateful to those fantastic writers on Corrie for creating such an iconic character.
Can you tell us about playing Ozias Harding in Where the Heart Is and Murray McCoy in Full House?
I was very pleased to play Ozias Harding in Where the Heart Is because it took me on from Corrie and because it was beautifully shot and written. The time pressures were so different to soap and I could relax and enjoy the acting experience. Corrie was five episodes a week, Where the Heart Is was one episode shot over 10 days.
I loved playing Murray in Full House because I’d always wanted to do comedy and these writers had done one of the most successful sitcoms of all time with Man About the House. My part was great because he was the quite witty antagonist or rebel in the piece. Live sitcom is very hard and incredibly nerve-racking because you do the whole thing in six days and to be funny you have to be relaxed and confident, so it was a great challenge and a great feeling of achievement after each episode’s recording. The part was also a big contrast to Mr. Hopwood, which I had previously played in Grange Hill.
What do you remember most from playing Mr. Hopwood in Grange Hill?
Hopwood was a nice early break for me in TV and I learnt a lot as an actor because the kids in Grange Hill were so natural and I wanted to be as natural as them so I made my character quite informal and a listening type teacher. It was a lovely job to get and the scripts were gritty and realistic. We have reunions every now and then and, of course, those ‘kids’ have all grown up and have ‘kids’ of their own!
You’ve worked on stage in many different shows including What The Butler Saw, Stepping Out, Guys and Dolls and The Rocky Horror Show, what are some of your favourite highlights from your theatre career?
Where the Heart Is was suddenly pulled and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen career-wise and out of the blue I was asked if I would play the Narrator in The Rocky Horror Show, I was a bit wary because I had never been involved in musical theatre. Anyway, I did it on tour and in the West End and it was fantastic, what a show! This led to me doing a number of musicals and then panto. I guess some of the highlights of my career apart from the TV stuff are playing opposite Claire Sweeney in Guys and Dolls, learning to tap dance for Stepping Out and playing opposite Lesley Sharp in Harper Regan at the Royal National Theatre.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
A feature of my career has been someone dropping out of a production and me being given the fortuitous opportunity to step into the role and this is in fact how I got into acting in the first place.
A boy at my grammar school dropped out of school and he had been cast as John Proctor, the lead character in The Crucible, my English teacher suggested me and that was it. I had no idea how to pursue a career in acting, but a friend of mine found out about drama schools and I was lucky enough to get into one and here I am some 50 years later.
Do you have any favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
My favourite TV shows to watch have been Breaking Bad and Succession, brilliant. More recently, my wife and I are rather taken with Bosch, an LA detective series based on books by Michael Connelly.
How do you like to spend your free time?
In my free time, I love reading, keeping up with politics, I’m a season ticket holder at Brighton & Hove Albion and I love podcasts, particularly The Rest is History, also podcasts by Sam Harris and Michael Sharmer, who are two American gentlemen bringing their extraordinary objective intelligence to bear on the crazy world we live in and going a good way to help you understand it.