Written By: Mark Armstrong
We recently spoke to Louis Emerick about his upcoming role in Peter Pan at St. Helens Theatre Royal (you can read that interview here), but he’s not the only big-name star who will be performing in this panto. Kristina Rihanoff of Strictly Comes Dancing fame will be waltzing her way onto the St. Helens stage, adding to what is already set to be a terrific show. We caught up with Kristina about Peter, Pan, Strictly and her time in Celebrity Big Brother back in 2016!
First of all, tell us about your character in Peter Pan.
I’ll be playing the lovely Tinkerbell, a fairy who is very kind and nice and funny. I love the story of the show, I’m looking forward to reading my script and how to adapt to the role personally, given my background as a professional dancer. But it’s so exciting to do a new thing, and it’ll be a challenge in many ways. I haven’t done panto before, but I thought about doing it for a couple of years. I’ve had a couple of offers before, but there was always something else happening. There was Strictly of course, and then I had a baby, I went on my own tours, and finally I thought “I really want to try and do something different”, and I love to challenge myself. I think that doing panto will bring new shades to my experience on stage, because I’ve always danced, but I’ve never actually, verbally acted, and I would love to do that. So, I’m really excited about that.
Have you been a fan of pantomime in the past?
In Russia where I’m from, we have a similar thing in terms of theatre performances for several weeks in December and January. It’s all in good humour and stuff, but it’s still different to panto. There’s a lot of humour in panto for the young children, which is brilliant, and when I watched a panto for the first time a couple of years ago, I thought it was absolutely fabulous. I loved it, loved it, loved it! So, it’s great to be a part of this one.
Of course, you’re most well-known for appearing on Strictly. How much did the show change your life?
Strictly is obviously a very well-loved and well-known show. Basically, the whole country is always tuning in to watch it. It’s absolutely amazing; you just can’t have a better job as a professional dancer. It is the job that you want, and I was very lucky that I was casted all those years ago, around ten years ago now. I managed to survive five different producers (laughs), which is quite good! I love my job; I was very proud, and I took it very seriously. But when you become a mum, your priorities change. You have to be honest with yourself, because being away from home is absolutely killing me now. When I did my own tour, it was so, so hard to be away. Now for this show, it’ll be a month-and-a-half, which will be a challenge. But I have to work just like everybody else (laughs), and this is a cool thing to do, plus I think the little ones will enjoy watching it.
Who would you consider to be your favourite dancing partners during your time on Strictly?
I had some great partners on Strictly; everybody was challenging in some ways and great in other ways. It’s different personalities and different people. I have to say, John Sergeant will always be my favourite person to dance with on Strictly! He was my first partner on the show, we had a hell of a ride, and we created some magnificent and iconic things, like when he dragged me across the floor! It’s the first experience that you never forget. It’s always going to be very, very close to my heart.
You also appeared in Celebrity Big Brother in 2016. What were the main challenges of doing this show for you?
That came about because I had done Strictly for eight years, and I wanted to go into something else and do my own thing. Even though it was a magnificent job, I felt like if you’ve been doing something for eight years, you just sometimes feel that you want to change things. Big Brother was knocking on my door for quite a few years, and I’d always say “no” because it was impossible for me to do it while I was on Strictly. But eventually I decided that I wanted to try it, because it was a chance for me to be me; Strictly is about the celebrities and their journeys and how you are helping them through it. So, I thought it was a great opportunity. I didn’t know that I was going to get pregnant; it was crazy that it all happened in the same timeframe. The main challenges were being isolated from my loved ones and not being able to communicate with them. Most of all, though, it was being locked up in a house with people that you don’t have anything in common with. They’re not your friends and you don’t really know them, but I was very lucky to have been in there with people who became very close friends. One of them was actually a Liverpudlian, Chris Maloney; he’s now a dear friend and we still do lots of things together. He was actually a singer on my tour when I came to St. Helens. John Partridge was great as well. I made some really lovely friends, and I think that’s the beauty of doing different things. You have to see the positivity in everything, and for me Big Brother wasn’t a bad experience. It was tough; I was there for two weeks, but I came in as me and left as me, so I was true to myself.
Finally, how much are you looking forward to appearing in Peter Pan?
It is a little bit away from my hometown of Southampton, so a two-and-a-half-hour drive, but I really wanted to do panto. My agent has known the team at St. Helens (including Chantelle) for years and years, and he said “It’s one of the best professional teams that you can ever work with”. He gave me his advice and said it was up to me, but he did recommend that I do it. I’ve seen the crew and how they work, and obviously the theatre itself. When doing your first panto, you want to be part of a very strong and professional team, and that’s what my decision was based on. So, I can’t wait!
Peter Pan runs at St. Helens Theatre Royal from Saturday December 8 to Sunday January 13 2019. To book your tickets, click here.