THE Chase chaser, comedian, broadcaster and non-practising doctor Paul Sinha takes questions from Charles Hutchinson on his pantomime debut as Abanazar in Aladdin at the Grand Opera House in York.
After 20 years of stand-up comedy and five years as "The Sinnerman" and "Smiling Assassin" on ITV's quiz show The Chase, how have you found your first experience of pantomime, playing the villainous Abanazar, Paul?
"I'm very much out of my comfort zone doing theatre. I've only ever been in anything once, in 1991 in Wandsworth in a production of Ramayana – plus the occasional medical revue – when I was the narrator, Valmiki, and it was not unlike Abanazar in that I was at the front of the stage delivering monologues.
"Playing the baddie in pantomime at this stage of my life [Sinha is 46] was a far-flung fantasy – but I'd also fallen into stand-up – though on The Chase I'm probably the least 'panto villain' of them all as I predominantly try to be the comic one.
"Now I'm doing the panto, there's nothing in stand-up that can prepare you for the discipline of wearing a weighty costume for two hours!"
How do you look on the challenge of doing your first panto?
"It's very much a learning curve for me in so many ways, not least being the least experienced person in the show; I'm absolutely new to it, but it's been enlightening to work with an experienced and talented cast.
"The most important thing is that I admit I have no idea of my talents for doing panto, but I know there'll be nothing lacking in my professionalism, as I don't want anyone to be saying anything behind my back.
Bring on the boos: Paul Sinha's Abanazar eggs on the Grand Opera House audience in Aladdin. Picture: David Harrison
"Certainly, I will give everything to my professionalism in this show as that's the first priority, but although I'm a comedian I'm not going to be ad-libbing too much because it can put the cast off their rhythm, and you're responsible for others as well as your own performance."
What are the differences between pantomime and stand-up?
"The obvious difference is that in stand-up comedy you fear being booed, but in panto you absolutely relish it as that's the baddie's function in the show.
It's varied from show to show so far: on the first Friday, I was booed from the beginning; today [last Thursday morning], it wasn't till my third entry, and that's something where you need to use your head, so I taunted them to get a reaction going."
Have you been keeping your hand in by doing some stand-up gigs too while you're in York?
"I've done a gig at the Frazer Theatre Comedy Club in Knaresborough and two gigs in York, at the Sitting Room and for Laugh Out Loud, but that's it for the rest of the run; I'm absolutely 100 per cent focused on the panto, so no more gigs in York for now."
Apparently you've been spotted taking part in Phil Qua's Speedquiz quiz nights at the Shoulder of Mutton and the 1331 bar...
"Yes, I'm doing them for relaxation and it's nice to be in a pub but not for a drink!"
Will you do another panto next year, Paul?
"The concept of pantomime is good; it's a step outside the comfort zone, but I won't make a decision till the end of the run. Spending a month away from your family is tough and I miss my nephew and niece, but the fact that I really love York was a factor in me doing this panto, whereas I've had offers from other places in the past that were a lot easier to turn down.
"But every day I'm in York I find something new that I really like, discovering lovely parts of the city, because you can do everything on foot here, and I also partly judge a city by its pubs and bars and York doesn't half have lots of pubs."
What's coming up next in Paul Sinha's diary?
"The Chase is on our screens at the moment and we'll start recording again in the middle of January, and if I can do a self-plug, Paul Sinha's History Revision – winner of the Best Radio Comedy in Europe in the Rose d'Or awards in Berlin – starts recording series three for BBC Radio 4 in late-January."
Paul Sinha stars in Three Bears Productions' Aladdin at Grand Opera House, York, until January 1; no performance on Christmas Day. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york