'The more they're booing, the better I'm doing my job'

From playing one of 'TV's top 10 heart-throb docs' to Robin Hood's sidekick in an '80s Saturday tea-time classic, Dawn French's love interest in The Vicar of Dibley and Lord Greatjon Umber in the hit fantasy epic, Game Of Thrones, Clive Mantle has certainly had a varied career.

Saturday, 2nd June 2018, 11:25 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 2:28 pm
From left: Princess So Shi (Divine Cresswell), The Emperor (Matt Devitt), Genie of the Ring (Karis Anderson), Abanazaar (Clive Mantle), Widow Twankey (Mark Siney), Aladdin (Danielle Haywood) and Wishee Washee (Christain Lee). (171167-1)

But this festive season he's playing the evil sorcerer Abanazaar in Aladdin, Ferneham Hall's pantomime '“ a role he's no stranger to.

'Yes, it's great,' he tells The Guide. 'It's actually the third time I've played Abanazaar now. You spend your life desiring a reaction from your audience '“ doing these serious plays or comedies or whatever they are '“ begging for a reaction from the audience and sometimes not getting it when you want to. But there's one thing you can guarantee when you're playing the bad guy in a panto, the minute you step on stage you're going to get lambasted by the audience, and the more they're booing the better I'm doing my job.

'Bath and Morven were the lucky people who've seen my Abanazaar before, now I'm going to inflict it on the people of Fareham.'

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Clive is joined in the cast by Britain's Got Talent finalist Christian Lee and Fareham's favourite dame Mark Siney. Karis Anderson from girl-band Stooshe will play the Genie of The Ring, West End star Divine Cresswell plays Princess So-Shi and newcomer Danielle Haywood makes her Ferneham Hall debut in the title role.

Although he's not worked with any of his cast members before, he adds: 'Funnily enough my wife has worked with Matt Devitt, who's playing The Emperor and directing it '“ she did a TV show with him about 25 years ago and they've kept in touch through Facebook and all those sorts of things. So it's really lovely to work with him '“ I feel like I know him already even though we only met for the first time at the show's press launch.

'Actors have got a shorthand with each other and they soon slot in. It's a family, albeit an eccentric family that's thrown together for a few weeks or months, and then you move on.

'You do keep in contact with people loosely, but you can go 20 years without seeing someone and then pick up where you left off, it's remarkable, in that respect.'

Abanazaar (Clive Mantle) with Aladdin (Danielle Haywood) in Aladdin at Ferneham Hall (171167-11)

While Clive enjoys playing panto, he doesn't like to deviate too far from the script.

'I'm pretty traditional in that sort of sense '“ there's nothing better than well crafted and well rehearsed comedy. Ad-libs like that are fantastic when they come out of the moment that you can't write '“ there are moments that can only be done once '“ the minute you start trying to manufacture ad-libs I think it all goes out of the window.

'Improvised comedy is hit and miss at the best of the times  it can be brilliant, but a lot of the time it's rubbish. It's better to stick to a well-crafted script!'

For a long time Clive was closely identified with the character of Dr Mike Barratt in the long-running BBC1 dramas Holby City and Casualty, to the extent that fans would write to him asking for medical advice.

But more recently it's his part in one of the world's biggest shows of recent years that he gets asked about most. 'People now ask me all the time, what happened to your character in Game of Thrones?

'I was in the first series. Although it was a massive production, no-one could foresee the success it was going to become. I've been in so many TV shows or films or whatever where everyone says it's going to be brilliant, then it comes out and it isn't, and you think "I've been fooled again!"

'I guess the nucleus of producers and financiers could see the potential, but the rest of us, we were just tiny cogs in a very huge machine.

'I'm very lucky to have kept going', he adds. 'To pay the mortgage and to not bore people '“ that's my two criteria in life. So when I'm on stage, I just try to give people their money's worth.'

When this writer mentions that he remembers Clive best as Little John in one of his childhood favourites, Robin Of Sherwood, which ran for three years in the mid-1980s, he lights up.

'That's a really heartwarming thing to hear '“ it meant so much to us. We were young actors starting out, but we did know we were in something special in that regard. Everyone involved, from the scripts, to the producers, to the stunts, camera-crew, wardrobe, make-up, music '“ everyone was at the real top of their game. 

'Everything came together to create a piece of magic. We should still be making it now. It was only because of the collapse of [co-producers] Goldcrest that the finance was pulled out from underneath it and we didn't carry on, which is a great, great shame. It was at the forefront of that real pageant television.'

Clive already has another role lined up after Aladdin.

'Very grandly, I'm doing Iolanthe, the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, at the English National Opera at the Coliseum in London's glittering West End. I'm principally there to, um, play with the audience, I think that's my raison d'etre!

'I'm not going to be singing, the audience will be very grateful to hear. 'If I do sing in this it will be for comic effect. I'm not trying to get into the ENO on a full-time basis!'

'¢ Aladdin is at Ferneham Hall in Fareham from December 8-31. Tickets from £13.50 - £19.50. Call the box office on 01329 231942 or go to fernehamhall.co.uk.