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Former Eastenders actor Martin Kemp: Belfast's Grand Opera House took my breath away

By Ali Gordon

Published 22/03/2016

Martin Kemp
Martin Kemp

Spandau Ballet star Martin Kemp has performed in venues across the globe but never on the same stage as Laurel and Hardy until he arrived in Belfast.

The former EastEnders bad boy is back in Belfast to play the role of The Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Grand Opera House.

“The Grand Opera House took my breath away when I walked in,” Martin told Sunday Life.

“I’ve been in so many venues over the years but it’s probably one of the best I’ve ever seen.

“Spandau Ballet played at the King’s Hall and the Odyssey but never there. There’s a picture on the wall of Laurel and Hardy there and it just took my breath away. To tread the same boards as them is fantastic.”

Starring alongside comedians Phill Jupitus and Jason Manford and fellow former EastEnders actress Michelle Collins in the hit stage show, Martin admits that he loves playing the villain.

“The term ‘The Childcatcher’ is terrible — it makes everyone uneasy but it’s great fun to play,” said the 54-year-old.

HARDER

“When I was growing up everyone was frightened of one of two characters, either The Childcatcher of the Wicked Witch of the West, but hopefully people aren’t too scared when they come to see the show!

“I don’t know what it is but I always seem to end up playing the harder kind of characters.

“I’m not sure whether it’s because these sorts of roles are so unlike me that I enjoy them so much but I really do.

“When you play evil characters you get a chance to open up this little box inside you and have a look at what’s in there. Then when the show’s over, you have to throw all the toys back in. Most people in life don’t get that opportunity.

“In most jobs you have to stick to being the good guy all the time — it’s cheap therapy.”

Martin received acclaim for his performances in The Krays and Steve Owen in EastEnders, scooping five British Soap Awards in the process, including the Sexiest Male.

But he doesn’t think of himself as much of a sex symbol.

“I’ve been doing this since I was eight-years-old and in the public eye since I was 17 so I’ve grown up with people recognising me and saying things about me and you adjust your life to that,” said the dad-of-two.

“I try not to think about it too much, it’s just one of those things that goes with the job.

“It’s nice to know that people remember things you’ve done though. At the same time, every actor has roles I’m sure they wish people would forget!

“You do so many things that people pull apart and dissect but thankfully Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the kind of show that people come along to and enjoy.”

After Martin wraps up his stint in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, running in Belfast until next Sunday, he has a few weeks before hitting the road again.

“In May I’m doing 30 dates across England for An Audience With Martin Kemp. It’s me being interviewed and telling my story so we’re going to do that and take it around the country.

“When I was doing the Spandau shows, the whole thing was just so big. We were performing in massive arenas with six or seven trucks full of crew but it meant that you became a dot on the stage. I absolutely loved being on tour with Spandau but it isn’t very intimate, you’re just a speck in a stadium full of people.

“I love the idea of being about to tour around, letting people actually get to know you.

“We haven’t any shows planned for Belfast yet but I would love to bring it over here.”

  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is running at The Grand Opera House until Sunday, March 27. Tickets can be purchased via www.goh.co.uk/.

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