Steven Pinder’s Wicked turn at The Playhouse

Steven Pinder as the Wizard in Wicked. Picture: contributed
Steven Pinder as the Wizard in Wicked. Picture: contributed
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HE may be playing the wonderful Wizard of Oz at the Playhouse right now, but for a generation, 54-year-old Steven Pinder will forever be Brookside Romeo Max Farnham.

During his time on the ground-breaking soap set in Liverpool, Pinder’s character was married three times, had a daughter with Down’s Syndrome, was falsely arrested for kerb crawling, saw two of his children killed in a car crash, and had a secret 20-year-long affair.

“There comes a point when the writers run out of ideas for a character and I suppose that was what led me to leave,” offers the actor, adding, “but I had been in the show for nearly nine years by that point and so many things had happened to Max over that period.”

Brookside, which attracted a cult at first, before establishing a mainstream audience thanks to story lines which included a body hidden under a patio and the first lesbian kiss on TV, was set in Brookside Close – a street of houses, as opposed to the studio sets used by other soap operas.

“There are real people living in the houses that were used for filming Brookside now,” says Pinder, adding, “although I haven’t been back since I did the series.

“When we filmed, the houses weren’t fully plumbed in. There was running water downstairs in the kitchen but nowhere else.

“I discovered that to my cost fairly early on when I took a pee in the Farnham’s toilet only to be told that it didn’t flush.”

Pinder, who was no stranger to the world of soaps, having previously played Roy Lambert, owner of Kings Oak corner shop in Crossroads, recalls that houses on Brookside Close were also freezing.

“They had no central heating, so in the winter you would be filming these indoor scenes, supposedly in warm cosy houses, but you’d be absolutely freezing.

“On occasion, you’d be able to see our breath when we spoke because it was so cold.

“Every now and then they would have to stop filming to bring in portable heaters to warm us and the house up.”

Although he left after nearly a decade on the show, Pinder returned a couple of years later after a chance meeting with producer Phil Redmond at an awards ceremony.

“He asked what I was doing and if I’d like to return. It was as simple as that,” laughs Pinder, who then remained with the show for another two years.

As Christmas and New Year approach, however, the chances are you may also recognise Pinder from one of Scotland’s most popular festive TV shows. Early in his career the actor appeared in Scotch And Wry, alongside much missed funnyman Rikki Fulton.

“Rikki Fulton was a legend in Scotland but in England no one knew who he was,” says Pinder.

“I soon found out though. It was Gregor Fisher, long before he became known as Rab C Nesbit, who got me that job.

“We had been working together with Diane Keen on a series at Granada called Foxy Lady – it was set in the office of a local paper and Gregor played one of the reporters. He suggested me for Scotch And Wry.

“I remember Rikki was a real gentleman and very, very funny.”

Right now though, Pinder’s focus is very definitely on the magical land of Oz at the Playhouse, where you’ll find him playing the Wizard in Wicked, the prequel to The Wizard of Oz.

In it we discover the circumstances that led to Glinda The Good and Elphaba, the green witch, turning out the way they did.

“I went into the audition for the part cold,” he reveals. “I didn’t really know anything about Wicked beforehand as I hadn’t seen the show. I think that helped, he’s a great character. He only has three numbers but he drives the action all the way through.”

With many performances sold out, the show has proven to be a big hit in the Capital.

He says, “It’s been very popular here. I think we had sold about 80 per cent of the tickets before we even opened and it’s great to be here for eight weeks.

“Usually, on tour, you only visit a city for a week at a time. You’re just getting familiar with it by the Thursday or Friday and then it’s time to move on.”

Wicked, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, until 10 January 2015, various times, £11.50-£75, 0844 871 7627