A Royal Interview: Prince Vincent aka Neil McDermott

Best known to TV audiences for playing bad boy Ryan Malloy in EastEnders since 2009 and Dr Ralph Ellis across three seasons of The Royal, Neil McDermott has taken the prince’s role in Sleeping Beauty in Bath this year.

You play bad boy Ryan Malloy in EastEnders – Ryan has a dark past and is a murderer. Was taking on the role of Prince Vincent in Sleeping Beauty a character reinvention challenge?
How dare you! I think you’ll find it was manslaughter. Ha. Thankfully I have played a lot of different characters over the years, some with more similarities to Ryan than others. Prince Vincent will share the same face, and voice… and that’s probably it.
You have played roles in pantomimes such as Aladdin and Cinderella in the past.

What is the appeal of playing in a panto?
It’s great to be able to get families into the theatre at Christmas where they can have a brilliant time, shout out and laugh as loud as they like. I think it’s a really magical way to get into the Christmas spirit. There is so much joy in the room, it is impossible not to love it.

The prince has been described as ‘strong, handsome, sensitive, funny, faithful, and completely unrealistic’. He can also ‘dance, sing, fight, ride a horse, joke, and outwit kings.’ Which of these will you have to work on the hardest?
I’ll be absolutely brilliant at all of them. I’ll also add a dollop of arrogance. Ha. Jokes aside… I have to ride a horse?!?

Why do you think the prince fell in love with the Sleeping Beauty so madly? Especially as the Princess was asleep…
Because it’s panto…. and they need to get on with the story!

Do you believe in love at first sight?
Vincent: Absolutely… people seem to fall in love with me all the time. Especially ugly old witches!
Neil: I think love gets stronger the longer you are with someone. It develops and changes. But in the end, all the shared experiences help it grow. But a spark is the beginning!

Pantomimes are criticised by some for showing outdated gender roles. What are your thoughts?
Pantomime has been ahead of its time in terms of anyone being able to play any role. Females have played principal boys and the dames are a staple of any great panto. In our panto you will find the Princess may appear like she needs saving by her Prince, but in the end proves she can also save him. So they will be a modern-day couple with a traditional beginning.

Which is your favourite of the prince’s lines in Sleeping Beauty?
I will enjoy delivering my Riding a Horse gag…

Which is your favourite song in the pantomime?
I’m singing a Kylie song, Padam Padam! So I am very much looking forward to that.

I see you played Johnny in Home, I’m Darling, which toured to Bath this year. How do you like the theatre and Bath?
Theatre Royal Bath is such a beautiful theatre where so many greats have performed. It is well-supported by loyal audiences and of course Bath itself is beautiful. It’s a really nice place to spend time and I’m especially excited about being back over the festive season. When I came last I visited the Thermae Spa which was glorious!

We hear you are starring in Sleuth at Theatre Royal Bath from 12–17 February. How does it feel to be following in Michael Caine’s footsteps?
Yes, I shall be back with you very soon after Christmas. It is a fantastic play with many previous versions on stage and on film. We have a brilliant director Rachel Kavanaugh who I worked with on Wind in the Willows at the London Palladium and I’m very much looking forward to what we can do with it. As thrillers go it’s one of the best. So we’ll be as thrilling as possible!

Do your children approve of your pantomime role and will they see it?
Yes they will be coming to support! They are used to seeing dad on stage and luckily haven’t yet been too embarrassed!

The pantomime Sleeping Beauty is at the Theatre Royal Bath from 7 December – 7 January; theatreroyal.org.uk