He’s the baddest baddie in town this Christmas, but off-stage actor Keith Lynch is a much nicer guy than his panto persona Flesh Creep.
The Waterside man said he is relishing the massive crowd reactions (even if they are rather negative) during the first week of the Millennium Forum’s pantomime production of Jack and the Beanstalk.
The 28-year-old former Foyle College student is no stranger to the Millennium Forum stage having had his first acting experiences with the Londonderry Musical Society.
“They would have done their shows here,” he told the Journal backstage. “And then I auditioned for the Millennium Forum Youth Theatre’s Sweeney Todd, and played the lead in that and that was kinda what got me to meet the right people over here. That was about four or five years ago.
“In the LMS shows I would done leads, Fagin in Oliver! and the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance, but with Sweeney Todd, to get to do one of the Forum’s productions was brilliant. They run it so close to a professional production. It’s a youth production but they are giving young people that experience, and if they want to go in to the professional side of things, they are providing the opportunity.
“Now that I am back doing the Panto I feel I have kind of come full circle. They set you on your way, get you prepared, and they are more than happy to bring back local faces, people who have come through their ranks.
“There is the possibility of work out there for young people if they move through these programmes that the Millennium Forum provides. It’s a hard business to get into and the Millennium Forum are providing those opportunities.”
Following his time with the Youth Theatre, Keith moved on to various stage work and Theatre in Education projects with Blue Eagle Productions led by Jonathan Burgess.
Last year he starred as Chuck in Teenage Kicks, a musical written by Colin Bateman for the Forum as part of the City of Culture 2013 programme.
“There’s a primary example of the Forum putting on big productions, bringing in goods people to work with and fully supporting local theatre for local people.”
Now, in Jack and the Beanstalk, Keith plays the henchman to the fabled angry giant of the fairytale, and as such is responsible for most of the mayhem and dastardly deeds on stage. He said: “Flesh Creep is a baddie, a newish addition to the story. The giant sends me down to all his dirty work, but you do eventually meet the giant, Blunderbore.
“It’s been one of the most fun roles I have ever had to play. The reaction has been absolutely incredible, especially during the kids shows. When I step out the wall of sound that hits you with ‘boos’ is enough to take you off your feet.
“That is what I am aiming for as the baddie. If you are not getting boos, you are not doing your job right. The kids love the slapstick side of it. The adults love it too.
“As soon as I step out on the stage there might be a minute or two before I get the opportunity to actually speak again. They rile me on. It’s all about involving the kids, making them feel part of the show.
“This is my first time doing panto. I’ve seen a few before, again it’s the full circle thing, from sitting in the audience to being up on stage, and who’s to say some of those kids sitting there today will not be inspired to some day be on the stage.”
Keith readily admits that playing a baddie is a little bit addictive.
“Not that I am a bad person in any way, you know,” he laughs, “but when you step out there and the kids start booing it drives me on to try and get more out of them, to out-do it.
“Every performance is getting more and more, and I can see the buzz from everyone else. There is no lull, no-one is getting tired. Every performance is as good if not better than the one before that.”
Keith said he felt that the City of Culture year raised the profile of the Forum and also raised the bar in terms of the acts and shows coming to Derry. And he would not be so easily seduced by the bright lights of London or Dublin, stating that Derry could hold it’s own beside them.
“If I have to go, I have to, but I am a proper Derry patriot. I love the city, I love the Walls, I love the history to where we are at now. Why would you want to leave? If I could keep working here I would happily spend my days here, but we all know that’s not the exact the way things are always going to go. You go where the work is.”
Keith is also a trained primary school teacher, having spent four years at Stranmillis.
“Even after four years of training as that,” he says, “the drive and the pull for the stage has always been there and here I am, and very, very happy. I loved teaching when I did it and teaching is essentially the same, you are up there to entertain; hold people’s attention, to teach without them knowing. A lot of teachers have crossed over into acting.
“Life isn’t always set in one direction. There is always time to change the road you are on.”
The Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime will run until January 4th. This year there will be a Boxing Day show for the first time, while a relaxed performance will be on staged on December 22nd for children with special requirements.Tickets are now on sale, tel: 028 71264455 or the Millennium Forum’s website: www.millenniumforum.co.uk.