Local radio personality Peter Gordon will be swapping the airwaves for the stage when he stars as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. He tells Simone Hellyer what he loves about panto and his home town of Guildford
Have you been in panto before? This is the 13th panto I’ve done in Guildford and I did a couple of runs in Woking and Aldershot a few years ago too. Pantomime is still really popular and is one of the last bastions of variety in this country, I think. Doing panto is a commitment, you’re doing 53 shows over a run, but you want to make every single one of those 53 the best one you’ve done. It is one of the biggest privileges that I’ve had and it’s a thrill to be a part of it every single year.
What can you tell us about the character you’re playing in Cinderella? I’m going to be playing one of the Ugly Sisters. This is my third time playing the role, but each pantomime I do is always different. So my ‘ugly’ this year is a robust but ever so slightly blunt and not the most intelligent, which may prove to be quite easy for me to play. The Ugly Sister is the dame’s shadow side and what I like is that it’s an excuse for you to be booed. It’s all very nice being clapped and cheered, but there is something very satisfying about getting a boo.
How do you feel about dressing in drag? I don’t think about it as dressing in drag – I’m very much a man in a dress. We have fantastic costumes at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre by Jamie Attle Costumiers and the great thing about playing a dame is that the costumes give you a great introduction, so you’ve got to make sure that you do a good performance off the back of that.
You are Guildford born and bred – what keeps you in the town? I love Guildford because there’s such a lovely heritage and there’s almost an extrovert feeling about the place that I quite like because it suits my character – both in and out of pantomime. I think the town can sometimes be underrated, but I think there are some wonderful things about Guildford. You can walk to one end of the road and be in the town within a few minutes or walk the other way and enjoy rolling countryside. How did your career in radio come about? I’ve been in radio for 32 years. Eagle Radio launched in 1996 and I was the person who launched it – 7.45am on January 9, 1996. We’re part of a group of radio stations across the country run by UKRD and I’m on the senior programming board for the company as well, so it keeps me off the streets anyway. To be on a radio station that has that much impact and influence on its local area is a privilege.
What do you enjoy most about your job? Knowing you can make a difference – we believe in proper local radio and making a difference to the areas that we broadcast to. Making a difference can be helping someone who’s called in, entertaining people with a song or even informing people with travel news, so they don’t get stuck in traffic.
You must have interviewed a lot of celebrities in your time, who has been your favourite? I usually rate it along who I’ve been more nervous about, so I always remember being really nervous about interviewing Sting. But it was a great thing to do and he was excellent. In more recent times Olly Murs because he’s a really decent guy and understands how it all works for us.
Peter Gordon will be performing in Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from December 7 to January 6. Web: yvonne-arnaud.co.uk