BIG ON BE­ING A BAD­DIE

As TV and stage star Claire Sweeney pre­pares for panto in Tun­bridge Wells, she tells Angela Cole how she can’t wait to re­turn to the county – and to be­ing a bad­die

Kentish Express Ashford & District - What's On - - STAGE -

If for­mer Brook­side ac­tor Claire Sweeney looks fa­mil­iar in her panto cos­tume for this Christ­mas, there’s a good rea­son. The Benidorm ac­tress, whose big break in show­busi­ness came back in 1991 when she played Lind­sey Corkhill in the Chan­nel 4 soap, played the same char­ac­ter last year in panto in Chatham as she is this year in the As­sem­bly Hall The­atre’s panto in Tun­bridge Wells. And she can’t wait, be­cause Cara­bosse is a bad­die - a role she rel­ishes.

The ac­tress and pre­sen­ter has also carved out a ca­reer in mu­si­cal the­atre af­ter leav­ing the ITV talk­show Loose Women, re­cently play­ing Baroness Bom­burst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - a char­ac­ter she de­scribes as “ab­so­lutely vile.”

“I loved Chitty,” she said. “That was one of the hap­pi­est jobs I have had. I was a bad­die. I love be­ing the bad­die. I just love it! “I don’t care about be­ing booed. You can have fun with it. Kids love to be scared too.”

The mother of one said although her four-year-old son will watch her as a bad­die, he will take it in his stride - and his pres­ence has helped her, too.

“Hav­ing a four-year-old son has brought the magic back to it for me,” she said. “It isn’t just a Christ­mas job for me. He’s seen me as scary - in fact he’s only known me be scary!

“He knows we are just pre­tend­ing. He feels like he is in on the se­cret.”

Af­ter spend­ing last Christ­mas in panto in Chatham - which she de­scribed as “lovely” she is look­ing for­ward to win­ter in Tun­bridge Wells.

“I am stay­ing at a very nice ho­tel in Tun­bridge Wells for some of the time. The the­atre ap­proached me and it’s a win, win for me as it’s also quite com­mutable and such a nice place. I don’t know Tun­bridge Wells but I am look­ing for­ward to it. It ticked all the boxes for me.”

And how is life for Claire, tour­ing with a lit­tle one at home?

“He was com­ing on tour with me but now he’s at home and he’ll be com­ing to see me in the show too.”

And that vi­tal day off for all panto ac­tors - Christ­mas Day? “My mum will come over for Christ­mas Day and we’ll be at home. I’ll be cook­ing the lunch.” De­spite the gru­elling schedule of shows through­out De­cem­ber and into the New Year, Claire’s not got a rest planned in Jan­uary, though she does have a change of tem­per­a­ture in mind.

“I’m go­ing to be work­ing on a cruise in the Caribbean in Jan­uary. Just for a cou­ple of weeks - a bit of sun and change of scene.”

In Sleep­ing Beauty, her char­ac­ter is a rather dis­grun­tled fairy with a se­ri­ous fear of miss­ing out.

The wicked fairy god­mother curses the princess when she misses out on an in­vi­ta­tion to the chris­ten­ing. Fol­low­ing last year’s record break­ing pro­duc­tion of Aladdin, the the­atre and Martin Dodd for UK Pro­duc­tions present the pan­tomime, di­rected by JohnJack­son Al­mond.

The show prom­ises to be packed with fly­ing fairies, smash-hit songs, stun­ning sets, spec­tac­u­lar cos­tumes, and mag­i­cal spe­cial ef­fects.

There could even be a fire­breath­ing dragon to look out for. Join­ing Claire will be Derek Mo­ran, who will be play­ing Silly Billy, and who is a reg­u­lar on Chan­nel 5’s Milk­shake. Derek used to live in the county, in Maidstone, while he was a mem­ber of the chart top­ping band D-side at the start of his ca­reer. He has been in panto with UK Pro­duc­tions for 10 years.

Quinn Pa­trick re­turns to the As­sem­bly Hall The­atre for a sec­ond year to Tun­bridge Wells as the dame, play­ing Nurse Nelly, af­ter play­ing Widow Twankey in last year’s pro­duc­tion.

Sleep­ing Beauty runs from Fri­day, De­cem­ber 7 to Wed­nes­day, Jan­uary 2. To book tick­ets from £15.50 for chil­dren and £24 for adults, call 01892 530613 or visit as­sem­bly­hallthe­atre.co.uk

TV and stage star Claire Sweeney as Cara­bosse­cara­bosse, top­top, with Quinn Pa­trick­patrick, left­left, and Santa and Derek Mo­ran, bot­tom, and help­ing The X-fac­tor stars Four of Di­a­monds switch on the Pad­dock Wood Christ­mas lights

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