12:15 3 April 2022

15:02 4 April 2022

Comedian Ben Langley learned quite a show in 24 hours when he stepped in to replace Hippodrome Circus favorite and ailing co-host Johnny Mac.

Pirates Live! at the Great Yarmouth site was able to open on Saturday thanks to Ben rushing to learn his lines in just one day.

Mac fell ill early in rehearsals and was unable to join circus host and producer Jack Jay on stage for the grand opening of the month-long show.

This is the 13th year that the duo has teamed up with the Hippodrome: and it has proven unlucky for some.

Johnny Mac in Pirates Online! at Great Yarmouth Racecourse Circus
– Credit: Great Yarmouth Racecourse Circus

Circus owner Peter Jay explained: “Johnny came for rehearsals but before he could set foot in the building he fell ill.

“We were hoping it would be a short-lived bug, but at the end of the week we realized he wasn’t going to be good enough to open the show.

“We thought maybe we should cancel, but we called Ben who is hosting with Jack at Christmas, and he agreed to step in. He’s our hero!”

Ben Langley returns to the Hippodrome next yearPictureL Strretview Marketing

Ben Langley returns to the Hippodrome next yearPictureL Strretview Marketing
– Credit: Archant

Ben received rapturous applause from the audience after his flawless last-minute performance in Pirates Live! which is located in a galleon at the edge of the swimming pool of the Hippodrome.

The roles turned for Mac, who in December took over from Birmingham Hippodrome panto star Matt Slack, who tested positive for Covid on Boxing Day.

Johnny’s own pantomime, Cinderella at the King’s Theater in Glasgow, had been closed over Christmas due to new Covid attendance rules, so he was able to play the part of his friend Matt in Birmingham.

He told the BBC at the time: ‘I was absolutely terrified, but what an amazing experience.

Johnny’s scheduled return to the ring was Monday, April 4.

* Live Pirates! until May 2. To learn more, visit or call 01493 738877.