INTERVIEW: Magical Meera

West Midlands-born comedian, writer and actress Meera Syal needs little introduction. Comedian, actress and an award-winning author we caught up with Meera as she prepares to return to the West Midlands to make her pantomime debut as the Magical Mermaid in the Birmingham Hippodrome’s production of Peter Pan.

So, back to the West Midlands for Christmas then?

Yeah, a Brummy Christmas! I’m really looking forward to it!

So, you’re playing the part of the Magical Mermaid. What can you tell us about her?

Well, she’s basically the Good Fairy but because of course as this is Peter Pan, she’s a mermaid which I’m thrilled about because I’ve always had a thing for mermaids and I get to wear a rather lovely, shiny tail, not great for dancing, very bad for going to the toilet but I’m sure we’ll work that out.

She basically helps Peter out of a few fixes with his arch enemy Captain Hook. She’s a good egg, although she has got a terrible memory because she’s half fish! She is generally there to sprinkle a bit of magic and help Peter defeat the villain.

Is this the first pantomime you’ve done?

This is my absolute first and I’ve been asked before, but it was never the right time so yeah, I’m a panto virgin! Matt Slack is obviously, you know, brilliant and incredibly well loved for his work at the Hippodrome and so is Jimmy so I’m sure they’ll look after me.

Peter Pan, Birmingham Hippodrome. 19 December 2018.
Pictured is Meera Syal as the Magic Mermaid with Jimmy Osmond as Captain Hook.
Picture by Simon Hadley. www.simonhadley.co.uk

The reputation of the Hippodrome pantomime is second to none, can we expect some big song and dance numbers.

Oh yes, huge! Dancing with that mermaid’s tail will be interesting! We’ll see how it works out with the tail, I’m sure they’ve thought of something clever, I don’t what it is, but I’m sure they have.

What is it about Peter that has made it last so long because it’s quite a sinister tale isn’t it really? Creeping into bedrooms and taking away young children to fantasy lands?

You’re right actually! Do you know what, I think if you analyse fairy tales too much, it all looks a bit sinister doesn’t it. The best fairy tales are quite dark, there’s danger in them and kids like that and if they know there’s resolution and justice at the end, you can get away with it. Peter Pan is one of the great childhood stories; that whole idea of not wanting to grow up, I think we’ve all been there, then realising you must, sadly.

Peter Pan, Birmingham Hippodrome. 19 December 2018.
Pictured left to right are Jaymi Hensley (Peter Pan), Jimmy Osmond (Captain Hook), Meera Syal (Magic Mermaid) and Matt Slack (Smee).
Picture by Simon Hadley.
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Do you feel like a grown up?

Most of the time no, I think I’m still somewhere stuck around fourteen in my head, I get a shock when I look in a mirror. It’s like “who’s the old bird? oh it’s me!”

I think that’s sort of what Peter Pan’s about; we all have to grow old but if you can hang on to your inner child that’s actually a good thing. Just let it out at the panto; you can go back to that joy of being a kid again. I think that’s the point of panto- it’s joy, that’s what we’re there to do.

Pure joy.

Peter Pan runs from Wed 19 Dec 2018 – Sun 27 Jan 2019 For tickets, call 0844 338 5000 or visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com