Jonathan Wilkes interview
Festival is our brand new theatre show created by Johnny Wilkes, and it’s the epitome of summer fun!
What can our guests expect from your new show, Festival, which is debuting on Iona?
I am so excited about Festival as it’s a show I have been thinking about for a while and to see it become a reality with the state of the art tech and LED screen we have on Iona is truly fulfilling. It is, above all, a feel good show which will transport the audience to the heady days of summer with feel good anthems (everyone loves a banger!); slick choreography and a credible storyline.
Tell us more about your vision, and what inspired you to create the show.
Long summer days spent at festivals around the country and seeing that carefree, contented, away-from-it-all atmosphere. Festivals allow people to truly escape daily routine for a few days of hedonism and fun, enjoying music, dancing, great food and seeing friends.
To create a show like Festival, you have to have experience. How does your past experience on stage help with creating a show like Festival?
I have been in many musicals and stage shows so I hope I have learnt how to hold an audience and to give them what they want. The storyline should be uncomplicated, with relatable characters and talented performers.
If your audience walks out of the theatre singing and wanting to carry on partying into the evening then you’ve created happiness – and happiness equals memories which is what holidays are all about.
What are you looking forward to experiencing the most on Iona? Aside from seeing your brand new show debut of course!
The space on Iona will allow all the guests to find their own individual areas to relax, curl up with a book, enjoy a cocktail or watch the variety of entertainment. The speciality dining sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to try Olly Smith’s new wine suggestions with Spanish chef Jose Pizarro’s tapas dishes. The itineraries on Iona’s maiden year include fantastic destinations, so guests can immerse themselves in the culture of northern Europe and the extraordinary landscape of the Norwegian fjords – I can’t wait.
You previously produced Astonishing for P&O Cruises with Stephen Mulhern – how was the experience?
Stephen and I have been friends for years and he is truly one of the most talented and gifted performers in the country. He knows just how to hold an audience and create special moments for them. His magic tricks are remarkable and his close up magic is spell-binding. I had always wanted to produce a show with him so when we had the opportunity to create Astonishing for P&O Cruises we went on Britannia for a few days and came up with the concept and the illusions and soundtrack. Astonishing premiered on Britannia but is now on all the ships in the fleet and gets fantastic reviews. We are both very proud of it.
This isn’t the first show you’ve done for us, Astonishing went down a storm. Does this make you feel pressure to get this follow up show, Festival, just as great?
There is always pressure when it’s your name in the programme and I’m a real perfectionist and I want it to be a contemporary, stand out show which the audience will remember. We have clever staging, great tunes and, above all, a very talented cast so I am sure they’ll be able to carry it brilliantly.
What was it like to work with creative director Paul Domaine on both of these shows?
Paul is simply the best in the business. He creates evocative, meaningful choreography and gets the very best out of every single one of the performers. I feel privileged to be able to work with someone of his calibre.
On a side note, we know you’ve travelled on board with us before. What are some of your favourite places you’ve visited with P&O Cruises, and are there any standouts?
Goodness, too many to mention but one of the stand outs has to be Santiago de Compostela, Spain for a wonderfully charming local market selling extraordinary dishes of octopus with paprika and potatoes; wonderful cheese and the best Godello wine for a bargain three euros a glass. I’ve had very memorable meals in Bergen and Stavanger; explored Rome and Barcelona but my heart lies in the Caribbean for the vibe, the culture, the swaying palm trees and the warm scented air. It’s just magical and I feel so fortunate to have been able to travel with P&O Cruises to so many incredible places.
What’s your earliest memory of travelling?
My father owned a travel business so we had some very special family holidays including a cruise holiday when I was five years old. I remember very clearly seeing the magnificent ship which looked so huge and I couldn’t believe that I could have ice cream every day and we were in the middle of the ocean. My sister and I have always loved travelling abroad and I’m still mesmerised by the sea almost forty years later.
Tell us what a dream holiday means to you
That’s an easy one - golf in the daytime and great sushi and seafood in the evening! Not having to dress up, seeing a show and really feeling that it’s an escape from everyday life.
Will you be joining us on board Iona? We certainly hope so!
I certainly hope so too – I can’t wait to see SkyDome, the first four screen multiplex at sea and the spectacular interior design we have all heard so much about and I can’t wait to see Festival in Iona’s theatre.
We know you’re very busy, so what other projects do you have coming up?
I have a number of plans including ideas for new shows so watch this space!