Comedienne and impressionist Hilary O’Neil can hardly believe her luck: traditional seaside variety in Bognor Regis, a place dear to her heart.
Hilary joins the company for Live at the Regis on Friday and Saturday, August 18 and 19 – a stint bound to bring back happy memories of her days when she did a Butlins season in Bognor alongside Shane Richie.
Even better, the first day of her Bognor return will be her birthday – and yes, she will be letting the audience know.
“It’s just an absolute dream. I was brought up on variety shows, from the early days of Butlins. I did a season at Bognor. I did Minehead and I did Barry Island when they were there.
“And I think Butlins is probably the basis of everything I do today. In those days, we did a two-week turnaround. We did a different show every night for two weeks. In those days, people would come for two weeks.
“And in terms of lyrics and harmonies and costumes and comedy and absolutely everything, the amount you had to learn was just unbelievable. Once you have got that amount of work as your backbone, you’ve got that behind you and you can apply it to any job you do. It was the perfect grounding for my career, and I just loved those days with all my heart.”
All of which makes the prospect of a Bognor return all the more enticing.
Headlining alongside Hilary is comedian and magician Paul Zenon. From the London Palladium to Hollywood’s Magic Castle, and The Comedy Store to Channel 4’s Countdown, for 30 years the UK’s top trickster has brought his unique combination of contemporary trickery and streetwise stand-up to the stages and screens of around 40 countries worldwide.
Hilary is delighted to join the company: “I am a huge variety fan, from when I was a youngster watching all the variety on the television with my parents. And then suddenly all those variety shows were disappearing… though some of it is coming back now. But I still want more!
“It disappeared because of all the millions of TV channels, because of the internet, because of the theatre having to compete with so much now. There are so many things that keep people away from the theatre now. That’s why pantomime is so important. You have got to educate the younger generation into going to the theatre. For so many children, pantomime is the first time they will go into the theatre, and you have got everything, dancing and singing and comedy and slapstick. It is all good variety.
“You have got to make the children want to come back, and that’s why I think Hazel (Latus, who runs the Regis Centre) is so brilliant and so brave to be giving us variety this summer, this summer season over two days.
“I have got lots of friends that are going to be coming along from all over the country. People keep asking me when I am going to be performing in this country, but apart from pantomime, I am cruising all the time. But as soon as they found out I am going to be doing this, I have got friends that are going to be travelling to Bognor for the show from Yorkshire, from Wales, from London, from Essex. It is going to be great!”
Tickets can be booked via the Regis Centre box office on 01243 861010 or online at www.regiscentre.co.uk, where the venue’s full programme of events can be found.
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