It’s got to be said, there are worse ways to spend a morning than chatting to Diversity.
The dance troupe from Wickford won the third series of Britain’s Got Talent, and is starring in Robin Hood and the Merry Men at the Cliffs Pavilion. And the group, which includes Dancing on Ice’s Ashley Banjo and the Greatest Dancer’s Jordon Banjo, really are Essex’s own version of merry men…
So, why are you back again guys?
Ashley Banjo: Why not, that’s the question. Why not? I feel like last year [Diversity starred in Aladdin at the Cliffs Pavilion] was so amazing. Not only was it really fun, it sold in record numbers and people really enjoyed it.
So, we were asked to come back again and it was a case of why not, it was great.
What are you most looking forward to?
Perri Kiely: They do really good cinnamon swirls downstairs!
Jordon Banjo: Ohhh gawwwd. Yeah. Treat yourself Katy, they do really good toffee cake down there too.
So, rehearsals? You only had two weeks between your 10-year anniversary tour…
Ashley Banjo: Across the country, doing 50 shows…
And starting this?
Ashley Banjo: Yep two weeks.
Not much rehearsal time then?
Ashley Banjo: Nah, nah, nah. We’re hard core. Crack it out!
Jordon Banjo: I feel like panto is the only show you can do that for…
Ashley Banjo: Yeah. It changes every night anyway. You have a baseline show and then when you go out, it’s just kinda top quality bants.
So, you guys are obviously Essex lads. It’s where you started out and the studio is based. But do you have a particularly fond Essex memory?
Jordon Banjo: The wimpy in Billericay… they do some really good chips.
Perri Kiely: All you talk about is food!
Jordon Banjo: It’s a fond memory! Just google Jordon 2009. It’ll make sense…
The table erupts into giggles. It transpires Jordon weighed 21 stone aged 15, was clinically obese, and had a 46” waist
thanks to his fondness for Cola in 2009. He shed the weight when it threatened his dance career.
Ashley Banjo: I don’t know though. Essex memories… all our memories are Essex. It’s where we grew up.
Do you think you’ve changed the perception of guys in dance, from what it was pre-Diversity?
Ashley Banjo: I like to think so… I don’t know about you guys?
Warren Russell: I feel like it has, because when I was at school, even though I nevergot hounded for it, it was always like you are the boy that dances. Whereas now in schools a lot more boys are dancing and there are clubs in schools and things and it’s not like, oh you’re a guy that dances…
So what can people expect when they turn up to see the panto?
Ashley Banjo: Top quality bants and a very tall, mixed-race Robin Hood. I’ve never played that character in a show before and I feel like there’s loads more speaking and we can have a lot more fun. We’re in full blown panto mode this year, so now we’re going for it…
Robin Hood and the Merry Men is at Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion to January 4, 2020.