When Granville Saxton’s grandson saw him as a pantomime villain, the little lad told him: ‘If you didn’t shout so much, people might like you a bit more.’

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Honest – I’m not joking this time!

But of course being (superficially) hated on stage is what pays the bills.

It has taken Granville from a string of comedy baddies at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton to a ‘command performance’ with Barbara Windsor in Dick Whittington, where her fairy came up to his King Rat’s waist.

Now he returns to the Nuffield in a pre-Easter Christmas-style show. But he will not look for laughs in Russ Tunney’s new adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, which also features Ferneham Hall panto star Peter Duncans.

Granville says: ‘The fascinating thing about Jules Verne’s novel is that he gives a perfect description of a modern submarine.

‘The thing we’re trying to get over is that the people taken into the Nautilus have so much wonder. Then we have the monster shark and the giant squid (I’m not going to tell you how we do those), and there are some wonderful songs written for the show.

‘We have also put a few gags in because it’s important to keep the young audience interested. It’s set in 1866 and can get a bit dry otherwise.

‘But I don’t do any of the jokes because I play Captain Nemo and he is a very serious and deep character.’

Granville took a break from the Christmas shows because audiences ‘knew what I was going to do’.

And having been snapped up by Brighton Theatre Royal, which is part of the Ambassador Group, he embarked on a series of Abanazars, Captain Hooks and King Rats with the multi-venue group.

Ambassador’s resources meant it could spend £3m on its Christmas shows whereas the Nuffield ‘spent £2’ – a deliberate touch of Saxton under-statement there, of course.

He has also appeared in the past two Harry Potter films, but the friendship with Nuffield ditrector Patrick Sandford continues.

‘I have known him for 30 years and done 22 shows with him here. And he is the reason I met my wife.’

She is Joanna Monro, now back in Mamma Mia! after a hip replacement.

· 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea will be at the Nuffield from April 6-16 and is suitable for ages six-plus. Tickets: (023) 8067 1771