White Rock Players’ Club spins a golden tale
By Clive Ramroop, Contributor
Bryce Paul Mills is a long-time performer with White Rock Players’ Club, but his signature role with the company is the dame in its annual pantomimes. The Other Press caught up with Mills during a rehearsal and photo shoot for Rumpelstiltskin for some words about his experiences in pantomime in this unique role type.
Without giving away any spoilers, what can viewers expect to see in Rumpelstiltskin?
You’re going to see a lot of action, suspense, drama, comedy, cartoon slapstick, also belly dancing—by me—and a lot of sauciness.
Would you like to offer some background on your experiences in theatre in general?
A lot of it, especially for panto, is acting a huge, big character as over the top as you can go, especially with cartoons. That’s what I always think of with pantos, as breaking that fourth wall and being extremely out there, playing over the top moves and running and whatnot. Other bits like normal acting is just research: look into the character, and try and make the character your own as best as you can.
What drew you into the world of panto, and why has it stayed with you to this day?
Back in Britain, we have a thing called The Nativity, which is doing the whole story of the birth of Christ. I used to get to play the shepherd because I had my own toy cuddly stuffy lamb. The shepherds are cool because they’re the only ones with animals, like a Disney kind of thing. Then, panto was because, being a big British tradition, I’d always see the pantos in the theatre, and they’d always have celebrities in them. I’ve been doing panto for… oh, blimey, since I was the age of seven. Back in Britain, I’ve only ever played the dame once. But I’ve played the comedy sidekick character, like Wee Willie Winkie, when I first came over here. And then obviously the dame. My first ever show for the White Rock Players was Mother Goose.
How long have you played the dame in panto, and how would you describe those experiences?
I’ve played the dame once before back in Britain for Stafford College for Beauty and the Beast; I played the nice sister with the huge, big afro wig. It was like, do your own make-up. I’ve met other people who played dames, and they have their own make-up that they put on, false eyelashes and whatnot. When I came over here, I played Wee Willie Winkie, the comedy sidekick part. After that, I played the dame for Pinocchio—I was the big schoolteacher. Me and [cast member] Ray Van Ieperen are a force to be reckoned with because we like ad-libbing so much. We make the show our own; every show is completely different for any audience. It can’t be the same because the jokes get boring, not only for the actors but it shows towards the audience as well. We just like to keep it alive and fresh, and do something that completely keeps the rest of the cast on its guard!
If there’s a panto that you’ve never done that you’d want to perform in, what would it be and what role type would you want to play, besides the dame?
Okay, that’s a toughie. [Pauses to think] Oh, of course! Cinderella, as Buttons [the servant character]. Straight down the line, it’s always Buttons. Buttons is the best panto character in the world. He’s the one who loves Cinderella, but never gets her. I always think, “Why?! Don’t go for Prince Charming, he’s boring! He’s a girl as well!”
Rumpelstiltskin will be playing from November 29 to December 28 at the Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock. For ticket information, contact the Coast Capital Playhouse box office at 604-536-7535. For more information, go to www.whiterockplayers.ca.
Tune in next week for part five of British Pantomime 101!