Belfast Telegraph

Question and Answer session with Bangor actor Hugh Brown

By Staff Reporter

The Bangor actor (43) will be joining forces with the colourful Family Hoffmann next week for Cahoots NI’s The Christmas Mystery Palace, at the MAC theatre, in Belfast.

Q: So the Family Hoffmann are back on stage then?

A: Yes, and with a whole new musical looking at the history of the family, how they rose from a small show in a tent to the fabulous Mystery Palace. The show goes in depth with each character and the whole family tree. It’s about looking at the heart of the family, which is an important message at Christmas.

Q: For those who are unfamiliar with the Family Hoffmann, can you give us a rundown of the concept?

A: There’s Willard Hoffmann, who is the head of the family, and has two daughters. I play the narrator character, who’s an old friend of Willard’s. Their lives are changed when a young boy called Harold, who’s run away from the workhouse, sneaks in to the tent and ends up being part of the show.

Q: Does the show appeal to a wide age range of children?

A: I think so, there’s a lot of magic and illusion, as with any Cahoots production. The emphasis is on beautiful visuals and effects for children; they’ll have so much to look at. There are also simple life stories within the characters, so children will relate to the two daughters and to Harold. Of course there’s a baddy as well, the workhouse owner, called The Beadle

Q: It all sounds rather Dickensian ...

A: Yes, it does have that kind of feel to it; it’s a little glimpse of history, something that children and parents can get involved in.

Q: You have a long association with Cahoots. Do you find that you prefer performing for a younger audience, rather than an adult one?

A: I don’t think about it any differently; a lot of what interests me about Cahoots is that their shows have the same production values as for adults. We try to make shows in which all children are valued. I hope we make quality theatre that their parents can enjoy too.

Q: You’ve spent a lot of time working with children in Cambodia too. Are you still enjoying that?

A: Yes, in fact I’ve just made a movie in Cambodia about the journey through the country of a clown who has just arrived there. Something has happened in his life, he needs a change and doesn’t want to perform any more, but in his journey through Cambodia he meets people and communities and his wish to perform comes back. It’s just been accepted for the Cambodian International Film Festival, which I’m chuffed about. I also do theatre and circus work with different groups, including street children.

Q: Is there still much evidence of Cambodia’s troubled past following the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s?

A: It’s going to take a long time for the country to recover from the trauma but there are signs of improvement. I believe theatre and the arts are an important thing in our communities and that’s why it’s something I want to develop out there, because it can help people face up to some of the trauma.

Q: And what are your own plans for Christmas this year?

A: I’ll be having a quiet Christmas Day with my family and it’s my birthday on Boxing Day, so I’ll have dinner with friends, then back to the show the next day. It’s a very full programme, but I love it. I want to be doing shows, it’s what Christmas is for me, and this show particularly because there is a strong family message to it.

  • The Christmas Mystery Palace runs at the MAC, Belfast, from Wednesday, December 3, until January 4. For details, visit www.themaclive.com

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