Joe Ashman is currently rehearsing to play the title role in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Hawth in Crawley. They open on Friday 11th December but Joe kindly took time out of his busy performance schedule to talk to me.
Joe Ashman | Interview
Hi Joe, you are in the early stages of rehearsals at the moment, how are they going?
They are long days. We rehearse for two weeks, the first week 9am – 7pm and then this week 9am – 10pm, it is very intense but all part of the fun. We got our scripts in advance to learn our parts but the work didn’t really start until we got here because everyone in the cast was busy doing other things.
Had you met any of the cast before?
I hadn’t met anyone! Some of the guys were cast back in May / June time but I wasn’t cast until mid September so I didn’t do the press launch etc. I didn’t meet everyone until last week when we started rehearsing. It has been a brilliant time already, amazing. Already we have built up a rapport because the whole process is so intense. We are lucky because everyone is so talented and a real cool bunch of people. We are really really lucky I think.
What was the first day like?
We met on the first day at about 9.30 and we read through the whole script and had some tea with some cheesy scones which were lovely then straight away the ensemble went off to learn dances and we started to work through the whole pantomime. We had worked really quickly and the whole thing was blocked within a couple of days – it is a really fast rehearsal process.
At what point does it get more difficult to rehearse because you are not sure about the audiences reactions?
This is my first panto in years, I did Peter Pan when I was 13 in Dunstable, which was a really short run and starred Brian Blessed which was an amazing experience, but I haven’t done one since and not as an adult so this is a totally different experience. I am feeling the pressure a bit more to be honest.
Thankfully, most of the people in this show have loads and loads of pantomime experience so I am taking what advice I can. I am learning fast when to change the gags to suit the audience, for example, a school audience reacts differently to a family audience.
‘Jack’ in Jack and the Beanstalk is quite an integral character. Coming into the cast quite late, do you feel as though it is a bit of a baptism of fire – a bit daunting?
Oh yes, 100%. When I read the cast list before I started I realised how talented the team are with amazing careers behind them. I feel so lucky to be part of this. But although it is daunting, everyone has been so kind and it has been easy to fit in and I feel completely part of the team and have so since day one.
Did you always want to become an actor?
I wanted to be a professional footballer when I was 8 but obviously it didn’t work out.
Were you any good as a footballer?
Oh I was useless, I had no chance! I was hoping to be the next Ryan Giggs and play for Manchester United but it wasn’t ever going to happen. My football career ended rather quickly. I started working in the West End when I was 10 as Jeremy in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and I also played Kurt in The Sound of Music. Since then I have been very busy and worked with some incredible people. I have been lucky to have worked twice with director Josie Rourke who really inspired me. I did Madness the Musical over the summer and really enjoyed that too, I love being in musicals.
As you’re experienced in musicals, you should feel quite at home singing and dancing in pantomimes. Are there some good songs this year in Jack and the Beanstalk?
We have some real crackers. It is probably the most electic mix in a panto I have heard! I won’t spoil it, you must come and see.
And the dancing – do you have experience in dancing?
I did dance lessons when I was younger, ballet and tap and general lessons to polish my technique if I was required to dance when I was working. As an adult I had quite a few jobs where I have had to dance. Now my dance lessons are kind of ‘on the job’ and I try to pick up tips from the professional dancers I am with. The dances in this pantomime have been wicked and it all has been really good fun so far.
You are also a singer, songwriter and guitarist, so which direction is most appealing?
Most of all I love acting and being in musicals, but I love to play the guitar and I have just bought myself a ukulele which is fun.
Panto is a perfect combination of everything! I am excited about opening on Friday and feel so positive about it, there is a real buzz amongst the cast and I have a feeling it’ll be really really great.
Of all the pantomimes in the area – why should we come to see Jack and the Beanstalk?
It is loads and loads of fun, lots of great gags and laughs. Everyone is so hard working, you are guaranteed a really good show.
Jack and the Beanstalk runs at the Hawth Crawley from 11th Dec- 3rd Jan. Joe Ashman will be playing the role of ‘Jack’.