‘Pure villains don’t exist nowadays,’ says Dick Whittington and Titans’ Lisa Ambalavanar
Posted by  badge Boss on Dec 09, 2022 - 06:44AM
Dick Whittington is Lisa Ambalavanar’s third Playhouse panto (Picture: Manuel Harlan)

The colourful pantomime world of Dick Whittington and the dark universe of superhero drama Titans seem worlds apart. But appearing in both, Derby-born actress Lisa Ambalavanar reckons they’re not as dissimilar as you may think.

She cites Dick’s nemesis, the nefarious King Rat, and evil Mother Mayhem, who clashes with the Titans when season four hits in the new year.

‘They are so different in the way they are played. Titans is so serious and Chris [Chandler], who plays King Rat, brings such humour. But the big similarity is that there’s a humanity to both,’ says Lisa, who plays Dick Whittington for Nottingham Playhouse, and joins Titans as newcomer Jinx.

‘You don’t tend to have any villain nowadays that is pure villain, without some reason to explain why they became that way, so you can have a bit of empathy, and both productions have that.

Dick Whittington marks Lisa’s third Playhouse panto, following appearances in 2019’s Sleeping Beauty (as Fairy Wiseheart) and 2021’s Beauty And The Beast (Belle).

‘It’s my first Principal Boy role, so it’s a different kind of panto, but it’s still very magical and so entertaining. There are topical and local references in there, and also stuff for kids and stuff for adults. It’s a very well-rounded panto. There’s a lot of adventure, too.’

Lisa has found it tricky to explain panto to Americans (Picture: Manuel Harlan)

Having appeared in BBC One’s daytime soap Doctors, as well as taking the lead in BBC/Netflix thriller The A List, it was while she was in Beauty And The Beast that Lisa discovered she’d landed the role of Jinx.

‘She’s a sorceress, a witch, she has magical powers; she can connect to the elements and nature, and control things by physically touching the ground. She also has telekinetic powers,’ Lisa explains, adding that the incoming season has a distinct magic theme, with Mother Mayhem, blood rituals and supernatural elements.

‘It’s about the world of the occult. In previous seasons they’ve explored meta humans and villains without powers, psychopaths, so it’s really interesting to explore the world of magic. Jinx knows that world, and has abilities that can help or hinder.’

For Titans, Lisa’s Jinx combines elements from both the comic book version of the character, and the lighter twist of animated series Teen Titans Go! ‘Jinx is thought of as a villain, but she’s not a pure villain. I’d say she’s more chaotic, she flits between both sides. She’s very cheeky, she’s a lone ranger really, so she’ll do what’s best for her at the time – which I guess is a selfish villainous thing to do.

‘But sometimes that means siding with the good guys, so she’s a bit all over the place which is really good fun to play. It’ll hopefully be fun to watch as well, as you don’t know what to expect from her, or what she’s going to do next.’

Lisa and Ewen Ling going over their lines for Dick Whittington (Picture: Manuel Harlan)

As soon as she got the role, Lisa began tracking down back issues of comics featuring Jinx. ‘I have a nice little pile now, which I’m very proud of. I’ve got nearly every one Jinx features in, so I was really clear on her background, and everything she’d done, before I started.’

Spending most of 2022 filming in Toronto, Lisa found joining the ensemble cast ‘really cool, they’re such a lovely group’.

She did, however, find it a challenge explaining the quirks of British panto – with the Dame, Principal Boy, and masses of audience interaction – to North Americans.

‘How do you explain panto to someone who’s never experienced it? So when they asked what I was doing next, I had to just describe it as a fun family Christmas show,’ she laughs.

Dick Whittington is at Nottingham Playhouse until January 14, 2023,