Once you watch Alan Montanaro as a dame, you’ll never want to miss another one of his pantomimes again. His quick wit and unbeatable drive to entertain people will have you hooked to his presence on stage. And with his big personality comes a big heart, as you’ll find out from our chat with him here below.
Who is Alan in the eyes of Alan Montanaro?
What an awkward question! I’d like to think that, on the whole, I’m one of the good guys. My motto would be to live and let live, and I would choose peace over confrontation, but I can be very opinionated and I sometimes do have to show my teeth, especially when faced with blind ignorance. I’m driven by passion in everything that I do and sometimes, that passion results in me biting off more than I can chew. But looking back, I can’t think of any regrets, apart from a few missed opportunities. I’m the eternal optimist and I will look for the good in everyone before judging them – a lesson taught to me by my late and great dad.
What is the greatest satisfaction you get from performing?
I can’t answer in superlatives because there isn’t just the one thing that I love about performing. It’s the whole package, from accepting a part in a production to the final curtain, and often beyond that. Once you agree to be part of a production, you also agree to be part of a family. Yes, it sounds like a cliché, but before you know it, you’re spending more time with your fellow thespians at rehearsals than you do with your family. Then there’s the fact that we’ve all got a shared passion for the arts and we all want the show to be a roaring success. Fast forward to opening night jitters. Many actors go to a quiet place to find their mojo before going out on stage which I admire but instead, I get hyper-active and can become quite the nuisance backstage, but it gets my energy levels up and ready to give 101% on stage. Because I mostly do comedy, there’s instant gratification from the audience with every bellow of laughter, and that’s a feeling that can’t be described in words.
Who would you cast in your dream production?
Oh, so many. But since this is my dream production, then I’ll think big and go with either Dame Maggie Smith or upcoming wonderboy Ben Whishaw. You see, the beauty of being an actor is that you never actually arrive. You could be a professional actor, but you could never be an expert actor because each role you play is different from the previous one. I love exploring and pushing the envelope a little bit… and what greater way to learn that than from the likes of Maggie Smith.
What do you think is the next step in theatre in Malta?
There seems to be a lot going on just below the surface. Students graduating from drama schools have raised the bar and are doing some excellent work. Their fresh, naturalistic approach often shows more established actors to be a little old school. Comedy remains popular, though a good thought-provoking drama will keep audiences gasping for more, so I imagine there will be more of both. Local writers are getting a little more daring – though in my opinion, some serious editing is necessary. Sometimes, less is more.
If you could manipulate time, which era would you revisit?
My friends and I discussed this just a few days ago and we all agreed that a degree of wealth ought to be necessary. So, I would say the 1920s would be the best choice, and the idea of drinking a gin & tonic whilst tapping a Havana with a diamond clad girl on each arm would be perfect. Of course, I’ll be missing out on the orgies of ancient Rome, but something’s got to give. I wouldn’t mind going back 20 years and come up with the idea for X-Factor or Big Brother and maybe invest in Google or Facebook. That would be nice.
What has so far been your best panto prank?
Surprisingly, my pranks are very well contained, because, as the lead, I’m on stage a lot or quickly getting into other costumes, but mostly because I don’t like to attract any unwanted attention on prank night, lest I be the main focus of everybody’s pranks. Inevitably, I am.
Having said that, a couple of years ago, one of the chorus boys pinched my phone during the rehearsal period to take a picture of his arse which he thought was hilarious. I printed that photo on an A4 sheet of paper and stuck it to the back of my frock in the opening scene and, I am told, under the stage lighting, everybody thought that I had cut a large window into my costume and was exposing my own bum. As if! Mine is much firmer.
You’ve made such a change for so many children in Phnom Penh through DO Cambodia. How have your visits changed you?
Growing up, I remember reading about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge who, under Pol Pot, murdered over 2 million men, women and children and completely wiped out the educated class in order to reduce the population to slavery.
The idea that while I was gelling my hair to go to Ta’ Gianpula, children were being forced to bludgeon their parents to death over an open grave had left its mark, and I was determined to take our exciting project to Cambodia.
Fast forward to August 2013 and, as prepared as our team of trained teachers were, nothing prepared us for the unconditional love we received from the children and their helpers.
Cambodia is a land of contradictions and you will see abject poverty sub-existing next to affluence. In principle, we don’t give money to begging children because we know that we’ll be feeding a bigger monster with our spare change. Instead, we give out little toys, because at the end of the day, even if they are working, they are still children. There was this one boy who came asking for a dollar or two, and instead I pulled a Playmobil horse out from behind his ear. His face lit up as he thanked me by clasping his hands and bowing his head. The next time I saw him was when our group was taken to see where the street children live and he crawled out from under a bridge and showed me the horse I had given him – which was now headless. I couldn’t believe it. How do you even break a Playmobil horse? It was then that his 2 year old sister came hobbling towards us waving the horse’s head in her hands. He had split the gift I had given him so as to share it with his sister.
Although I go to Cambodia to teach, I have to wonder who exactly is teaching who. We have much to learn from children.
For more information about DO Cambodia, visit the official Drama Outreach Project website.