It may only be spring, but the cast of Aylesbury Waterside Theatre’s Christmas panto has today been revealed.
Actress Anita Dobson is the lead star after a ringing endorsement of the town from last year’s turn Russell Grant.
Anita, who will star as Carabosse the Wicked Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, told the Herald she can’t wait to start rehearsals in November.
“Russell Grant is an old mate of mine and he said he had a lovely time there in Peter Pan, and everyone treated him adorably, which is easy to do because he is so adorable.”
Anita said she became pals with Russell when they both appeared on Strictly Come Dancing. But although she won’t be dancing in the pantomime she will be singing a couple of numbers.
“I performed in this role in Richmond a couple of years ago and will probably use the same songs. I hope the beautiful costumes I had are still available.”
Anita expects to stay in the Vale some of the time during the three and a half week run of the show, but will also sometimes return to her London home, where she lives with her husband, Queen guitarist Brian May.
“I hope he will come to see me in the pantomime,” she said. “He generally does nip down to see me at some point.”
Anita’s love of panto began at the age of four when her mother and grandfather first took her to the Hackney Empire.
“I sang and danced along to the whole show, and repeated the whole performance when we got home. My grandfather said: ‘I think she has the sawdust in her blood’.
“And that’s the magic of panto. It’s often the first theatrical experience for a lot of children, and gives that first opportunity to get them into a theatre and excited by it.”
Anita has appeared in many pantomimes throughout her career including Jack and the Beanstalk and Aladdin.
Her most famous role was that of the alcoholic landlady Angie Watts in the BBC soap EastEnders. She has also appeared in The Bill, Casualty, Hotel Babylon and Holby City.
She started out in theatre and it remains a great love.
“Even after loads of television, it’s good to get back into theatre because a live audience keeps you on your toes and lets you know if your timing is off. And of course children are the most discerning audience.”
Prior to her stint in Aylesbury Anita travels to America next week to star in Steven Berkoff’s Oedipus.
She admits: “I can cherry pick what I do, so I do the jobs that really ring my bell.”
She is excited about coming to the Waterside and says of her wicked role: “She’s great fun, the baddies always are and the children love to hate you.”
Anita will be working alongside Aylesbury comedian Andy Collins who will play Chester the Jester.
“I know Andy, “she said. “He does a lot of warm up for television shows so I meet him quite a lot.”
Holly Brewer will play Sleeping Beauty.