Love Island star Amy Hart prepares for her professional panto debut in Jack and The Beanstalk at The Kings Theatre | Big interview
This may be her first professional turn in panto, but Amy Hart is no stranger to treading the boards at Christmas time.
As a youngster she appeared in Dick Whittington alongside oddball children’s TV legend Timmy Mallett in her native Worthing back in 2002/3.
The Love Island star recalls the show at the Pavilion Theatre: ‘We did his song Itsy Bitsy in the show. I was 11 and I loved it.’
But did the children get hit by Mallett’s trademark mallet?
‘Yep – and we all got given a mallet, signed. I've still got mine at home.’
Although she is still on the committee of her local am-dram group, Worthing Musical Comedy Society, it was appearing on ITV2’s hit reality TV/dating show in 2019 that introduced her to a wider public.
She walked out of the show on day 37, and has never looked back. Now working primarily as an influencer, before going into the show she had 3,000 followers on Instagram. She now has 1.1m and is a regular on the likes of Loose Women and Good Morning Britain.
And for the next few weeks she will be joining the cast of Jack and The Beanstalk, this year's panto at The Kings Theatre in Southsea, as Princess Jill.
Following last year’s cruelly Covid-curtailed run for Dick Whittington, the theatre has reunited most of that show’s cast for another Pompey panto.
Amy stars alongside Jack Edwards as Dame Trott, X Factor finalist and Same Difference star, Sean Smith as Jack Trott, comedy favourite and Las Vegas award-winner James Percy as Silly Billy, West End regular Julia Worsley playing the evil Von Badapple, superstar singer Marlene Little Hill as the Fairy and funnyman Peter McCrohon as King Eric.
Amy first met her co-stars back in May: ‘They're all so welcoming. Obviously this isn't my day job, but it is theirs, and they've been so supportive, especially Jules, who I'm sharing a dressing room with.
‘I was going to have my own dressing room, but we got on so well, we decided to share instead. When someone's told me I've got to do this, or I've got to do that or I’ve got to get up at 6am and drink lots of water, she's like: “Enough. Just enjoy it and stop worrying”!
Was she ever worried about joining what is already a close-knit team?
‘I didn't give them a choice,’ she laughs, ‘ I was like: “This is me, I’m coming in!” But they've all been really lovely and included me as part of the family.’
As someone who ‘loves to perform', panto was a logical choice for the former flight attendant.
‘I would never do musicals,’ she pauses, ‘she says... because the standard in the West End and on the UK tours is so high – and I should know because a lot of my friends are in them, so I'd never want to take a part away from someone that is amazing.
‘But doing a panto, that is an opportunity and a way for me to perform.
‘I started talking to a few different companies and got a few different offers for all around the UK, and then I got chatting to Jack (Edwards, The Kings creative director, and resident dame), just about how we both love musicals and stuff.
‘I said to him as a joke: “If you ever want me in panto, just let me know...”
‘And he was like: “Would you actually do it?”
‘And I said: “Uh, yes!”
'I put all the offers I had on the table, and everything kept coming back to Portsmouth. What about the fact that it's 40 minutes from home, what about the fact that everyone's really nice, and the fact that I've got the time to prepare, and that I know Jack will be really supportive…?
‘When I did am-dram with all my friends I could never wait for show week, here I get five show weeks!’
Growing up just along the coast in West Sussex, Amy is no stranger to Portsmouth, but she has been busy getting reacquainted with the city since being cast in Jack.
‘The other day we went on a “sites of Portsmouth” photo-shoot, so we went to the Historic Dockyards, up the Spinnaker Tower for high tea, we went to Bonita's, we went to the Rose Gardens with The Pyramids in the background, we went on the beach, Gunwharf.’
It sounds like the latter is going to be seeing a lot of Amy while she’s here: ‘I'm going to spend all my money there when I'm in panto here! It's quite good that it's in the opposite direction for me to going home, so I have to go out of my way to get there.’
And one thing she is really looking forward to is meeting fans at the stage door after each performance, due in no small part to her own love of meeting the stars this way.
‘I can't wait to do that,' she enthuses, ‘because I am a stage-doorer and everyone has also been so generous with their time for me, so I can't wait to pay that forward.
‘I've already been planning it – I want people to tag me in their photos on Twitter or Instagram and then I'll make a big collage…
‘Jack asked me if I was going to do the stage door? And I was like: "Will anyone come to see me?” And he was like: “Ames, it's going to be mad!” Of course I'll do it.’
When Amy left Love Island fans were concerned for her mental health following explosive rows and tearful breakdowns on camera. The show was reeling from the recent deaths of former contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, and this series also turned out to be host Caroline Flack’s last, before she too died by suicide.
Amy says now of Love Island: ‘I do have some fond memories. Obviously it wasn't a great time for me on there, but it all worked out in the end – I've got a nice boyfriend now.
‘It was a real life-changing experience. I learnt a lot, met a lot of amazing people, and have had a lot of amazing opportunities, like this, off the back of it.’
And the former flight attendant is full of praise for the way Love Island’s producers supported her after her departure.
‘ITV are amazing with their aftercare. I had eight months of therapy, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), and learnt so much about myself – why I do certain things, why I'm the way I am. I'm nosey anyway, so to be nosey about yourself is the best thing ever because there's no judgement. I was like: “I want to learn the next bit, I want to learn the next bit!” And that's completely changed my life for the better.’
Amy hopes doing panto will lead to more theatre, as she says: ‘I'd like to do a play – I'd love to do Abigail's Party, or something similar, but I will hopefully do panto every year, either here or wherever will have me, basically! They might not want me back here...’
But given her recent engagements – in September she spoke in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on influencer culture, support for smaller creatives and the social media giants’ lack of action on trolls, and last month appeared on the BBC's flagship politics show Question Time – who knows where her career will go next?
More immediately though, she says: ‘I’m working on some television projects, so we’ll see.
‘But after the show? I just want to go on holiday – don't know where yet, maybe somewhere in the Caribbean. I told my boyfriend, if he can't get time off his work, I'm still going on my own! All inclusive – lying on a sunbed for two weeks with a cocktail in my hand – just chilling out after 61 shows.’
Jack and The Beanstalk at The Kings Theatre, Southsea, runs from November 27 to January 2. Adult tickets £18-30. Go to kingsportsmouth.co.uk.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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