Why the festive season is reason to be jolly for Knutsford actor Paul Barnhill

PUBLISHED: 19:00 29 November 2012 | UPDATED: 15:08 16 December 2014

Paul Barnhill

Paul Barnhill

Knutsford actor Paul Barnhill starring in the role of Sinbad the Sailor in The Library Theatre's production of the Arabian Nights.

For the past few years Paul Barnhill has spent Christmas treading the boards and 2012 is no exception as he’ll be starring in the role of Sinbad the Sailor in The Library Theatre’s production of the Arabian Nights.

It’s a tremendously physical role where he encounters giant birds and flies around the stage, so it’s safe to assume that unlike most he won’t be overloading on mince pies and sherry.

‘Sinbad is a great part. I used to love the Ray Harryhausen films like the Seven Voyages of Sinbad and used to watch those films at Knutsford Cinema with those great creature creations, so to be in these stories is quite magical,’ Paul enthuses.

‘The whole cast play wonderful parts. It’s a real ensemble show: physical, funny, moving, great storytelling and a great adaptation of such an ancient set of stories.’

2012 has been quite a year for Knutsford-born Paul. He went from playing Toad in the Library Theatre’s last Christmas show Wind in The Willows to being Mr Beaver in the 360 Kensington London production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where he met a delighted Kate Middleton backstage afterwards.

‘Kate Middleton visited a performance of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe I was doing in Kensington in a huge theatre tent in summer,’ says Paul who achieved notoriety when he played villain Josh Carter in Brookside.

‘She loved the play and loved the comedy of the beavers. I’m not really bothered about the royals but she was charming and very lovely about the show.’

Born in Knutsford, one of his first experiences of theatre was in Knutsford Little Theatre’s Christmas production of Hans Christian Andersen. He was bitten by the theatrical bug and on a full grant went to do a foundation course at East 15, Salford, then onto the Manchester Youth Theatre. He spent 12 years in London but the North West has always felt like home.
He confesses that being back with the Library Theatre in December was his Christmas wish because it means he can spend time with the family who mean so much to him.

It’s the third time he’s appeared in the company’s festive offering (as well as The Wind in the Willows he starred in A Christmas Carol), which because of Manchester Central Library’s multi-million pound facelift is now performed at the Lowry in Salford. He considers himself truly fortunate as unlike many actors he can be home in half an hour.

Christmas Day will mark a small hiatus in a gruelling schedule for the actor who says he usually spends quality time with his wife, Sarah, and daughters Ruby, eight and Darcy, who’ll be four on December 22nd.
‘We are usually quite selfish as it is the one day of the year that is just right for standing still,’ says Paul.

‘As I ‘m moving about all over the place for the rest of the year, the one thing I don’t want is to be driving all over the country visiting relatives when I can just be at home in Knutsford with my family. Although this year, we are changing things a bit, as we have lost some family members so we are having our mothers who live in Lostock and Peover over for Christmas, as we want to see more of them.’

Paul has another reason to be at home. His New Year plans include setting up a new North West theatre company called Goofus. Initially it will be based at home in Knutsford but he’s forging links with the Lowry theatre who have committed to giving them rehearsal space and the studio theatre.

Under the Goofus banner Paul has already co-written comedy shows for Radio 4 – including Clayton Grange with Buffy the Vampire Slayer actor Anthony Head, now commissioned for a second series.

‘Our aim is to support local theatres,’ explains Paul. ‘It’s something I have wanted to do. As you get older - and if you’re lucky - you get to choose what suits you so even though The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe has been invited to play in Chicago and San Francisco next year, I think I’ll be staying in Knutsford.

‘If the children were older maybe I’d go out there for a while but when they are eight, it is too young to take them over there. If it was big money, then maybe. But going around as Mr Beaver – well maybe it’s not that cool!’

Arabian Nights runs from November 30th-January 12th at the Lowry
0843 208 6010 www.thelowry.com

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