Dame good at it | Edward Mercieca

Actor Edward Mercieca, who will be playing the fabulous part of the Dame in FM Theatre’s 2015 panto Robin Hood and the Babes in the Woods, sits down with IGGY FENECH for a snappy Q&A

21 December 2015, 8:23am
Edward Mercieca: “In panto, it’s not what’s on the page that counts but who the person playing the part is”
Edward Mercieca: “In panto, it’s not what’s on the page that counts but who the person playing the part is”
It was 1998 when Edward Mercieca founded FM Theatre Productions along with his wife, Marika. Since then, the company has produced over 20 productions, ranging from musicals to straight plays to pantomimes; and it’s even taught some 8,000 students through its Stagecoach Theatre Arts School.

Of course, Edward has since become a household name in the industry, and his 30-plus years’ experience in theatre shines through in everything he does. Yet the role of the Dame in the many pantos he’s been in, remain his best-loved, at least, among many audience members.   

I haven’t known Ed for long – in fact, I didn’t even know that he’s a ‘Newcastle supporter and loves a bit of cricket on his days off’, as his official bio states – but I’ve known him long enough to know that he is spectacularly talented and hilarious!

So I will leave his words to truly capture the essence of his character.

Edward… How did you get into acting?

I had just got back from studying in the UK in 1984 when I met this girl at a mutual friend’s birthday bash. After that, we started dating. At the time, this girl was playing the principal girl in the MADC panto Mother Goose. So I signed up as a stage hand, got the bug and the rest, as they say, is history. Oh, that girl’s name? Marika Fenech, of course!

How did you become a Dame?

I remember my first panto role was as a chorus boy in Robinson Crusoe in 1985. The director, Jon Rosser, told me I would play Dame before long and he was right; the following year I played the villain Benjamin Black in Goldilocks and The Three Bears and, the one after that, I played my first Dame in Sleeping Beauty.

On top of being the Dame, you’re also the producer. Why did you decide to take up both roles?

Well, seeing as I’m producing it, I might as well be in it… Plus, I know the director!

And how is the director treating you?

Like crap… But that’s what I love about Chris!

What can you tell us about rehearsals? How’s the process going?

There are a lot of them and they are very tiring! But, as one can imagine, they’re a lot of fun, too.

Who’s your designer? And what can you tell us about the process of turning a drawing into a show-stopping dress?

Our main costume consultant is Denise Mulholland and, together with our specialist costume designer and maker, Noel Zarb, they come up with the goodies! Of course with a healthy dose of Chris Gatt on the side, as well.

What do you think of the other characters?

I like all the characters, actually. You see, in panto, it’s not what’s on the page that counts but who the person playing the part is. I wrote the script and, as I always do, I write for the person who is playing the role. In other words, the character I create has a lot of the actor who is playing the role in it.

Do you have any role models in acting?

Not really, but I have my favourite actors, of course. I absolutely love Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Eric Morecambe, Ronnie Barker, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart best.

Why should people come see Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood?

Because it’s Christmas and everyone should go and watch panto… And because it’s at the Manoel Theatre, one of the most beautiful theatres in the world. It’s cosy and intimate and it’s just perfect for our totally crazy, zany, hilarious, show-stopping, traditional pantomime that will have you laughing your heads off.

Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood will take place at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta over the Christmas period. It will be performed on 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30 December 2015, and again between 2 and 4 January 2016, at both 3pm and 8pm. Tickets cost between €18.50 and €27.50 and can be purchased from http://www.teatrumanoel.com.mt/