Peterborough actor Irfan on being SpongeBob's best friend

Irfan Damani 'Patrick' and Company. 
Photo Mark SeniorIrfan Damani 'Patrick' and Company. 
Photo Mark Senior
Irfan Damani 'Patrick' and Company. Photo Mark Senior
It’s a far cry from turning up late and reluctant for an audition in his football kit, but Peterborough’s Irfan Damani is enjoying life on stage just now.

The nationwide tour of bright, hilarious and brand-new show The Spongebob Musical is going well and the former Voyager Academy pupil – who plays Patrick – is “having a blast”.

What’s more he is looking forward to bringing it to the city's New Theatre this month (June 22-24) and catching up with family and friends.

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“A lot of people have been pleasantly surprised,” says Irfan. “It is a really good story with good meaning and really important in today's age – coming out of covid for instance – so much of it is relevant to today's society. Plus it’s is fun to do.”

Spongebob The Musical featuring Peterborough's Irfan DamaniSpongebob The Musical featuring Peterborough's Irfan Damani
Spongebob The Musical featuring Peterborough's Irfan Damani

Basically, the citizens of Bikini Bottom discover that a volcano will soon erupt and destroy their humble home, so SpongeBob and his friends must come together to save the fate of their undersea world!

“Patrick (Irfan’s character) is a starfish who is Spongebob's best friend - he is quite iconic in the show and within pop culture," adds Irfan. “He has a few very odd characteristics and is not the brightest , but he is loyal to Spongebob.

“The audience tends to be a mixture of kids my kind of age in their mid 20s who have grown up watching it and know ever single reference and those who are new to it, don't know that much and are loving it regardless.

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“It is a completely new story that uses characters from the TV show and a few snippets from the show which helps the story progress.”

It is of course a musical, which adds to the appeal.

“The music is written by so many people (Sara Bareilles, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend to name a few), and no matter what type of music you like - from traditional musical theatre to pop and rock – there is something for you. It is really refreshing to see and to be be part of as I get to sing some songs written by amazing artists which I didn't think I would ever do.”

His short career has been interrupted by the pandemic but he has managed to pack in tours in Gangsta Granny and Billionaire Boy – including his West End debut – made commercials and appeared in EastEnders and a major film.

So how did it all begin?

“I went to Voyager Academy (now Queen Katharines) which had a really good media arts department and at the time was run by Moira Green,” says Irfan. “Basically I hated musical theatre and she effectively forced me to go to an audition for a school production of Les Miserables.

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“I remember I had football practice on the same day so I rocked up 45 minutes late for my audition, still wearing my shinpads, but did a quite compelling audition and the next thing I knew I was cast in it .

“I fell in love with it and I had the support of my family and teachers who helped me audition for drama school and I got a place at London College of Music in West London.”

After graduating he says he was “lucky and thankful” to get a job straight away at Saddlers Wells Theatre, and has gone from strength to strength, “learning all the time”.

As for his upcoming appearance in his home city, he has a message to the audience: ”It is pure bonkers. Come with an open mind, open eyes and open ears and just sit down and enjoy it.”