Peter Piper is playing Friar Tuck at this year's panto at Milton Keynes Theatre image: Ambassador Theatre Group

Q & A with Peter Piper: Friar Tuck in Robin Hood at Milton Keynes Theatre

If this were any old panto, then it would come as no surprise to find among the cast list a character called Peter Piper. But this is Robin Hood, a fantastic fun family show coming to Milton Keynes Theatre for the very first time. And Peter Piper is a real live actor who is playing Friar Tuck alongside Shane Richie’s Robin.

Playing Friar Tuck has become a bit of a seasonal ‘habit’ for Peter. So we asked him how he fills his free time when he’s away from home, whether he survived a role in Holby City and what it’s like to work with the totally anarchic Shane Richie…

You’ve played this part before so what is it you’re most looking forward to in doing it again?
Sounds stereo-typical but it’s called chemistry. Ritchie and I bounce off each other when we’re on stage. We have a history of working together and the past two seasons have been the same ego free cast and crew …which speaks volumes

Have you ever played Milton Keynes Theatre before?
Twice, When touring with Ritchie in ‘Boogie Nights’.

Do you have any local links to Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire or Hertfordshire?
Apart from the motorway services, no.

How do you like to spend your ‘down time’ (such as it is with two shows a day!) when you’re working away from home?
Past two years I’ve been volunteering my mornings at shelters for the homeless. And I’m hoping they’ll find some use for me at the ‘Winter Night Shelter’ in Milton Keynes. (It stops me stealing and mugging strangers when working away from home)

Is Friar Tuck a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’?
Deffo’ a goodie’. He’s a man of ‘the cloth!’

Do you have to wear padding as Friar Tuck?
Yes

And is the costume hot to wear?
At first, but like anything once you get used to it, it’s quite cosy. Plus – it makes a great sleep pillow t’ween shows.

Friar Tuck is generally regarded as being well-rounded. (That’s the fat suit workin’ then) What is his favourite part of Christmas dinner?
‘Cos he’s of the church it has to be the Parson’s nose washed down with flagons of Mead of course.

And what is Peter Piper’s favourite seasonal goodie?
Turkey with burnt stuffing and gravy… cwooor delish!

I realise that Robin Hood is not a pantomime as such but do you get a ‘walk-down’ costume at the end?
Yep, I’m dressed in all my finery as the BISHOP of Sherwood

How do you deal with Shane Richie’s habit of wandering off script and into the realms of any other plotline or dialogue he might fancy?
Love it! We just feed off each other and know we’ll eventually find our way back to
where we went ‘off piste’.

You’ve worked a lot in the US, how would you explain what pantomime is to an American who had never seen one before?
What ? A guy dressed as a dame and a dame dressed as a guy? YOU try doin’ that… If you shout to an American “It’s behind you!” they’ll reply, “What is?” Panto’ is part of our DNA.

How did you manage to master American accents so convincingly that you’ve appeared in TV series in the States and done voice-overs for the likes of Disney, Warner Bros and Paramount?
Desperation. Seriously though, I’ve always been fascinated by dialects. (I’ve been told I have impersonation Tourettes. I just keep saying it over and over…)

You played a guest lead in Holby City for BBC1. Did you suffer with some ghastly illness? Can you share the prognosis/outcome with us?!
No illness, I was a lap dance club owner. One of my dancer girls got pregnant and I wouldn’t believe her when she eventually told me it was mine. Apart from thinking she was trying to ‘fleece’ me, there was subtext of being scared it might inherit a condition my character had. (Oooh crackin’ plot twist eh?)

As a stand-up comic as well as an actor, what is the main difference when it comes to preparing to go on stage?
You stand alone as stand up and trust your instincts. With drama it’s structure and discipline. “Walk over there, then say this for a second time for another ‘take’…. but do it naturally!”

What has been your craziest panto moment so far – on stage or off?
When the real ponies walked on stage at the end of Act 1 in Cinderella and decided that was the moment to go ‘potty’ It was a moment (and smell) the audience and cast will never forget. I laughed so much I nearly peed myself as well.

If people are thinking of booking tickets to see a show this Christmas, why should they come and see Robin Hood?
Ritchie’s simply an incorrigible vagabond with NO ego (unlike some.) He thrives on having a good time and that allows every one of us, front of and backstage, to do the same and it’s a creative expansion, a win-win. No performance is the same as the last.

We’ve an excellent director with Ian Talbot (OBE!) who is not only a well respected heavyweight but because he’s with us again, he knows how we tick psychologically.

Don’t tell anyone but we actually get paid for this…!