York Theatre Royal’s “All New Adventures of Peter Pan” opens this week and looks set to bring plenty of festive cheer to the people of York. Centre stage as Peter Pan himself will be Jason Battersby, who trained at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and at The Royal Ballet School. Aside from theatre credits including “Junior in Crazy For You” (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Lead Shadow in “Wendy and Peter” (Leeds Playhouse), Jason is also a singer-songwriter-producer, with a number of songs played on BBC Introducing. Here, Jason chats about taking to the stage as the famous flying lost boy…
Tell us about Peter Pan.
He’s very playful, pretty much everything is a game to him. He behaves how children want to behave – imagining fighting pirates, travelling through Neverland, the underground home and the lost boys. He doesn’t grow old so his life is like a child’s dream really.
What was the first pantomime you ever saw?
Jack and the Beanstalk many years ago at the Birmingham Hippodrome. It was a school trip.
What is your favourite thing about pantomime?
The surprise factor. The audience are involved in the show and there are lots of not so much unexpected but additional elements involving the audience who play a huge role in panto really.
Have you done pantomime before?
No, but when I was seven I appeared in Santa Claus the Musical which had pantomime-ish elements to it.
So you acted and danced as a child?
I began dance classes at the age of two and later was a junior associate at the Royal Ballet School.
Your childhood stage credits include productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Birmingham Royal Ballet and touring in Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart – what do you recall about those times?
I don’t think I quite realised the significance of what was happening. When you’re things just sort of happen. I remember always loving doing The Nutcracker. I did it twice. It was like an early Christmas because rehearsals started at the end of October.
But you didn’t follow a career in ballet.
You have to decide at quite an early age if you want to be a ballet dancer and continue with that training. I thought ‘yes, that’s something I enjoy’ but I’d never really wanted to focus on one specific aspect of performance’.
All New Adventures of Peter Pan isn’t your first experience of the Peter Pan story, is it?
Last Christmas I played Lead Shadow in the play Peter and Wendy at Leeds Playhouse. Before that I hadn’t read the book or seen the Disney film. I did some research into Peter Pan and J.M.Barrie to prepare for the production, including looking at the parallels between the character and the writer’s own life.
Are you looking forward to flying again?
Last year we had a single line for the flying. This year we have two lines which means you can manoeuvre more. The flying harness can be restricting. You have all these ideas of what you want to do when rehearsing, then put the harness on and realise you can’t do them all. It can be painful too if you don’t put the harness on the right way. This year will definitely be the most I’ve ever flown.
You also write and produce songs with two of your songs released in coming months – do you regard yourself as an actor, singer, dancer – or all three?
Music was something I was always interested in and I started playing the guitar. I wasn’t necessarily the best behaved person at school so it was very good to have something to focus on. I joined a band with a bunch of friends at school, watched them writing music and then did it myself. Music for me is quite grounding. Communication for me has always been a little difficult and there’s something about writing lyrics I really like. I enjoy producing music where I am the creative force behind it with no outside influence,
Might you abandon acting for music?
I don’t think so. The plan is to do both of them together. There are a lot of people who combine acting and music. Especially when you’re not in a job it’s a great thing to put the creative focus on. As an actor you’re not always necessarily going to be in work so there’s that idea of creating your own stuff. I’ve been quite fortunate so far because I haven’t spent too long out of work. During the two months between my last show and this is when I was writing.
So there you have it! “All New Adventures of Peter Pan” is at York Theatre Royal from December 2nd 2022 to January 2nd 2023 – you can find more information and tickets here. You can also check out Jason Battersby’s music here.
Q&A courtesy of Steve Pratt.