Kevin Keeley Tallaght native plays Tickles in The Civic Panto

By Hayden Moore

With the summer well and truly gone and Halloween wrapped up, the Christmas season is within touching distance and that can mean only one thing in the Irish entertainment calendar – Panto!

After a hugely successful inaugural Christmas Pantomime in The Civic Theatre last year, they have staged another one this holiday season and it will follow the story of Snow White.

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Tickles played by Kevin Keeley

In the fairytale kingdom, Snow White has taken over as the fairest of them all from The Evil Queen Cruella, who is not having a bar of it – so she has forced the princess to be a maid in her castle.

Also under the thumb of The Evil Queen is Tickles, played by Tallaght native Kevin Keeley.

Kevin caught up with The Echo right in the thick of a busy rehearsal schedule for The Civic Panto to tell us about Tickles, pacing himself out over 47 shows and touring America last year with Celtic Woman.

Can you tell me a little bit about your character?

His name is Tickles and he works in the castle for the queen, just like everybody does.

I don’t want to give too much away cause the show is full of surprises, but he’s given an important task, a mission of sorts. He’s the main butler in the castle but he’s not very good at it because he’s 10.

Must be a lot of fun getting to play around like that?

Oh absolutely, yeah, because I’m 26 now but Tickles is just 10, so I get to tap into that side of me.

We prepare as much as we can, but a lot of the show is based on audience participation.

The idea is that we rehearse and prep enough that we’re just totally in character so then we can rely on the audience and pick up a lot of the show when we’re running it.

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You’re doing 47 shows between December 10 and January 5, that must be very physically demanding?

Yeah, it was originally meant to run from December 10 to 29, but it got extended because of ticket sales. I absolutely love the intensity of it.

For me I genuinely wouldn’t know Christmas without the panto. We’re doing two shows a day for nearly a month, so we’ve an intense week of rehearsals to get the body ready for it. It’s nice as well that we get to do all these extra shows because of ticket sales.

How do you prepare for something like that?

You can prepare as much as you can with the rehearsals and we’ll be flying after a few shows.

The cast is really great as well so it makes it so much easier. The two new actors Conor and Megan playing Prince Charming and Snow White were actually found by The Civic during the auditions and they’re just great.

We’ve seven more days of rehearsals before the first show and then we’re into it.

How does the Sensory Friendly Performance on December 17 differ from the other performances?

Basically, there are less or no strobe lights, the music is turned right down, the special effects are turned down.

That whole side of the production is taken back a small bit, but the magic of the show is still there. It’s a great addition I have to say, because it gives every kid a chance to see the show in a comfortable environment.

What is your background in acting/performing?

I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and have worked every year since then. I’ve been in panto since I was 11.

I was on the Voice of Ireland then in 2012 – it’s a bit scarlet saying it now, but I made it through the knockouts – I ended up coming fourth.

What have you been up to more recently?

I did a tour of America last year with Celtic Woman for four months. It really makes you think when you’re on the go all the time like that, I’d never do it again!

Ah no, I would – it’s just you’re doing a show every night and then hopping on the bus and driving to a different state every night.

I moved to Lanzarote for four years and I sang in a pub over there, but even then, I’d still come home every Christmas for the panto.

Without a doubt the biggest achievement in my life is my four-month-old daughter, she’s just great.

You were saying there that you’ve been in panto since you were 11, which panto were you part of?

I started in the Olympia in 2005 and I was in that for eight straight years in a row and then I moved on to the June Rodgers Christmas cabaret for four years.

Now I’m in the Civic obviously and it’s great to be part of it because I’m working with a friend of mine, Rob Murphy, who’s directing it. I’ve known Rob for years and it’s great to work with him on a big production like this.

What can people expect from the show?

The audition stage found very talented cast members who are just a breath of fresh air – all of the cast is incredible. It’s coming together nicely.

People coming to the show can expect a magical night full of colour, some really intelligent funny jokes, dancing and it’ll involve a lot of characters.

Some of the characters in this show are brilliant, but it’s a true spectacle and a highly creative imaginative panto.

Snow White – The Civic Panto is running from Tuesday, December 10 until Sunday, January 5, with tickets costing €19/17 or €65 for a family. School bookings are also available.

See Civic Theatre or call The Civic’s box-office.

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