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Theatre Royal panto: Ben Nickless

November 2014

HE was a gent, a generous performer to work with but uniquely himself. That’s how Ben Nickless recalls his time with David Hasselhoff in pantomime at the Theatre Royal last year.
“We’d do our first scene together then sit in the wings,” says Nickless, who played Smee, opposite The Hoff’s Captain Hook.
“I’d be next to him waiting to go back on and he’d say: ‘Great scene, man. They loved us!’ But in the wings, the rule is, you don’t talk... or if you do, you whisper. But he must have learned to whisper in a helicopter, he was so loud.
“I’d always get in trouble because he’d talk to me, saying: “Man, that was awesome!” and one of the crew would come over and say ‘Can we keep the noise down!?’ He’d look around, saying: ‘Why, who’s being noisey?’ He had no idea the noise was coming from him,” laughs Nickless, who is from Lancashire but now lives in Torquay with his wife, a dancer.
“He’d always take his hook off in the wings because it was so sweaty. He was about to go back on without it, realised, searched around for it... and by this time he was supposed to be on stage. Then he’d find it, walk on and the light would catch his hat and pull his wig off. He was really flustered. The wardrobe lady had to follow him around, really on edge.”
Ben adds: “He was often off in his own Hoff world but he really was one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with. A top man. We did have a good laugh.”
They stayed in touch and Hasselhoff gave Nickless a small role in his new spoof TV documentary called Hoff The Record.
“He said at the time we were in panto that he’d get me in the show but in the showbusiness world you take that with a pinch of salt. Then I got a call from the producer of the show and filmed it in London last month.
“Here’s a man who works all over the world and lives in LA but I end up filming with him in a kebab shop in London.”
The series will aired be on Dave in the spring.
Before that, the 33-year-old Ben will be back in the Theatre Royal panto, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, alongside Birds of A Feather’s Lesley Joseph and former EastEnder turned Dancing On Ice winner Sam Attwater.

“I’ve not worked with either before but I did see Lesley in pantomime years ago in Plymouth, because my mate was in it,” he says.
“She was really funny. My expectations weren’t massive for her but she was brilliant. And I’ll think she’ll bring a lot to Nottingham.”
This will be his eleventh panto and he’ll be playing Muddles, opposite Joseph as The Wicked Queen and Attwater as The Prince.
The return to Nottingham will mean a chance to see more of the city.
“The Hoff was telling me ‘you’ve got to go and see the Castle’ but I never got the chance. I’m a big football fan and I did go and see the Brian Clough statue. Hopefully, when I’m back there I can see a bit more of Nottingham and not just the dressing room, the stage and Wagamama’s.”
He adds: “I’m a sucker for a Wagamama’s. I also did TGI Friday, Subway, Bella Italia, Red Hot World Buffet, Harvester and the Moulin Rouge chippy where you could sit inside and have a fritter.
“Nottingham is a great place to do panto because of all the restaurants you’ve got. There’s never a problem finding somewhere to eat after a show.”
Nickless started out as a Bluecoat at Pontins, was a kids’ entertainer, did his first panto, then began a series of summer seasons.
“I’m a variety entertainer. I sing, I do comedy, I do impressions, there’s a few prop gags,” he says.
“I was never the class clown at school. I was quite shy. But I was in a school production of The Wizard of Oz and the drama teacher was shocked how naturally I took to it. The next year we did the Pied Piper and the teacher gave me impressions to do. I became the most famous kid in the school after that.”
He studied performing arts at college but left and got a tele-sales job.
“On the side I was writing comedy and working on impressions. Then I entered the TV show Search For A Star and I won. From that I was offered a summer season. At the same time the office where I was working offered me a pay rise and a company car. I opted for the summer season, even though it was minimum wage and ridiculous amount of hours. It’s because it was what I wanted to do. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at the Theatre Royal from Saturday, December 6 to Sunday, January 11. Tickets start from £15, available from the box office, call 0115 989 5555 or online at

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