Short, loud but with a twinkle... why Fettes loves being a bad guy

Jack and The Beanstalk - The Lyceum Theatre - Sheffield Theatres - 6 December 2013''Andrew Fettes as Hefferflumphenstein
Jack and The Beanstalk - The Lyceum Theatre - Sheffield Theatres - 6 December 2013''Andrew Fettes as Hefferflumphenstein

“I love playing villains,” declares Andrew Fettes who is doing just that in the Lyceum pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.

“I’m 5ft 6ins, short and loud but with a twinkle in my eye. I’ll be bad and I will be nasty, I’ll have a real go at the kids and there’s no doubt Hefferflumphenstein is a baddie but I think it’s important you can laugh at him and laugh with him.”

He enjoys walking on stage and having everyone boo and hiss him.

“The villains in pantos all have their own agenda and they should be distinct characters, I’ve played Abanazar in Aladdin and I always have a good relationship with the audience within the realm of being the nasty one but he is different, he’s like a Bond villain, he wants world domination and the pretty girl..

“King Rat is the same - he wants to be rich and rule London. With Fleshcreep, my boss is the Giant and he can’t get down to do what he wants to do so I do it. But when I am down there I am the boss but when I am up top you see that Fleshcreep is like a lot of bullies, he’s a coward cowering in the corner.”

So is Fettes’ villainry just for Christmas? “My wife would be the one to ask about that,” he laughs..But it would seem so judging by the other things he gets up to.

In the autumn he was touring in Ha Ha Holmes! The Hound of the Baskervilles.

He and Ben Langley are the Ha Ha Boys who have devised a series of comedy shows on subjects beginning with H such as Ha Ha Hamlet, Ha Ha Homicide and Ha Ha Hitler.

The idea was hatched when the pair were appearing in a previous pantomime and devised a show that exploited Langley’s experience as a street performer and Fettes’s clowning. skills.

On tour in the autumn they had Joe Paquale guesting. “Joe was Holmes, Ben was Watson, and I played everybody else - eight different parts,” explains Fettes. “Quick changes, lots of juggling, it’s like Sherlock Holmes meets a variety show, All good clean family fun, it’s a bit like a panto.”

On a trip to the Edinburgh festival his two Ha Ha partners were both doing street theatre in their spare time. “I thought since I had been doing escapology for six months in the show I thought I would give it a go. and I love it. My speciality is being handcuffed on a diving board with a bucket of water on my head and I have to escape from that.”

Fettes insists it all came easy to him “I have watched a lot of street acts in Covent Garden and I learned from observation how to do it and my own clowning and the bits of comedy I have done in the past.

“For 15 years I have worked as a lookalike for Manuel of Fawlty Towers so I have honed all those skills of working one to one with an audience. Going into a room as Manuel with 250 dinner guests and you have two hours to entertain them you have got to know how to work a crowd.”

Though he admits he looks a bit like Andrew Sachs when he sticks a moustache on it is not an impersonation of him.

“I play the role - he is a classic character. I apply the same techniques playing Manuel as I would Hamlet.”

So what does Andrew Sachs think of it. “I was at a charity event and he was one of the guests and I was the meet and greet and they didn’t tell either of us,” Fettes recounts.

“And I walked in and saw him and groaned but we shook hands and he said, ‘one of us is wearing the wrong clothes’. At the end of the night he came up and said you are doing justice to Manuel - not me - and after that I thought it’s not Andrew but a classic character I am performing.

“For me, it’s very much a fill-in and if my agent rings and says there’s a Manuel gig or a film, I will take a film,” says the actor who was.

“I am a classically trained actor and I have done weekly rep but I am 54 now and I have never had so much fun with all the bits and pieces I am doing.”

Jack and the Beanstalk is at the Lyceum until January 5.