Rude panto for the summer swelter | Steve Hili

Freshly London-based comedian Steve Hili speaks to us about taking a second stab at a foul-mouthed, adult-oriented ‘anti-panto’, this time twisting the Jack and the Beanstalk story into extra-naughty shape.

Steve Hili
Steve Hili

What was the reaction to your first adult panto like, and why did you decide to do another one?

It went down – ahem – extremely well. We wanted to create a show that was silly, playful, naughty and unashamedly politically incorrect. And we did that. It was a bit of an experiment and we were not sure if people would buy in to the concept of an anti-panto (a panto... for adults... in summer) but they did. We sold out completely, audiences raved about it and the cast and crew had a blast.

After the run was over, I knew I was moving to London. However the reaction to the show was so good that people kept telling me that it should be a yearly event. One of those people was Michael Fenech who loved the concept so much, he offered to produce it this year. So here we are.

Why did you choose Jack and the Beanstalk this time around? What was it about that story that made it suitable to your - lewd and rude - ends?

The adult panto gets a fairy-tale and ‘naughties’ it up.  A story about a boy who swaps his cow for some magic beans, and a bloodthirsty giant who lives in the sky was always going to have massive potential. And as for beanstalks...

How would you describe the dynamic between the cast? You would presumably need a crew to be fully on board with your sense of humour, so how did you scope them out?

The team is amazing. I have worked with all of them in the past and a few of them were in last year’s show, so I know they get me and what we are trying to do. Also I love having people on board who can contribute ideas and who will voice their opinions. They have already thrown themselves into the project (often with very little regard for their own dignity) which is essential because you can’t hold back in an adult panto! Also, because I am not back in Malta yet they have had to take on a bit more responsibility than they would usually have had to, and they have responded brilliantly.

What kind of niche do you think your shows fill?

Theatre can be many things. It can teach, it can make a point, it can cause a revolution. It can be serious. But it can also just be fun. I like playing. I like being silly. I like being naughty. I like being politically incorrect. And my shows reflect that. This panto will be unashamedly rowdy, raunchy and ridiculously funny.  

Since you’re popping back to the island from the UK for this show, could you update us on how your comedy career is doing there? How does Malta compare to the UK in that regard?

It is going well. I am focusing on stand-up at the moment while doing a bit of comedy writing in other areas too. I am also doing a bit of acting. The stand-up scene in London is mad. Hundreds of people are doing stand-up at various levels. People who are to all intents and purposes your ‘competitors’ competing with you for work.

Having said that, I’m getting booked, and not everyone is, so that is great. I am also taking part in a few competitions and doing quite well. I just got to the final of the Joker of Year Competition and I am in the semi- finals of the Golden Jester Contest in September, so that’s exciting.

Obviously a big difference with Malta is size. In Malta there are not as many opportunities to do stand-up and to hone your craft. In London I can write a joke in the morning and try it out that night, modify it the next day, try it out again and then decide to use it, modify it some more or scrap it. All within two days.

Having said that I think that the comedy scene in Malta is very strong too. A lot of it is theatre-based, but I think the stand-up scene is now at a stage where it can really take off and I think it will pretty soon.

How would you describe Malta's cultural scene? What would you change about it?

There are parts of the cultural scene that are thriving. Who would have thought that theatre would become so big on our island?

However I would love to see a bit more experimentation and more people taking the DIY approach. I obviously love comedy. How great would it be for an alternative comedy scene to spring up in Malta? In the 80s stand-up in the UK became what it became because people were making comedy the way the punks made music. I think Malta is ripe for that.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a few different projects. I have got an idea for a one-man show that I want to explore a bit more. But right now, some beans on toast.

Jack and his Beanstalk – the adult panto will be performed at the Temi Zammit Hall, University of Malta on July 4 and 11. Tickets can be booked from