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Actor Chris Clarkson discusses all things panto at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds



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It's panto season at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and a familiar face is back.

Chris Clarkson has entrained thousands over the five years he has performed at the theatre and is back this time as one of the ugly step-sisters in Cinderella, running until January 16.

Though he lives in Manchester, his partner is based in Bury St Edmunds, which he credits for one of the many reason he returns to the town annually.

Chris Clarkson has performed in Theatre Royal pantomimes for five years.
Chris Clarkson has performed in Theatre Royal pantomimes for five years.

SuffolkNews caught up with Chris between shows for a chat about the show and his history with the theatre.

Why do you come back here every year?

I love the town and I love this theatre.

Chris Clarkson and Craig Painting as Kylie and Miley Grizzle in Cinderella.
Chris Clarkson and Craig Painting as Kylie and Miley Grizzle in Cinderella.

This will be my 19th panto.

I've done 2,000 seat venues but this is such a beautiful one to do because the theatre is intimate you can pretty much see everyone in the room as they come on the journey with you.

How did you get your first panto role?

I had previously auditioned for Karen Simpson, the artistic director at the time, for a different role which I didn't end up doing and we got on really well, so when the chance came up to audition for her again I was lucky enough to be offered the job.

Chris Clarkson in Cinderella.
Chris Clarkson in Cinderella.

It was lovely working with Karen for the first few years. Unfortunately she passed away but now we have Owen (Calvert-Lyons) here who is also very lovely and had us all round for dinner the other night which was nice.

What makes this performance special?

I think the way this one has been designed, cast and directed makes it come together beautifully.

Chris Clarkson lives in Manchester.
Chris Clarkson lives in Manchester.

There are some shows where the costumes don't fit the figures of the actors wearing them but everything in this show is made to measure, so the fact that everything is uniquely created to come together makes it a very special performance in my opinion.

The lady that designs the set always matches the colour of the proscenium arch to the d├ęcor of the theatre, its little things like that which helps draw the audience in.

How has the show gone so far?

Anna Campkin, Oliver Mawdsley, Lauren Chinery, Chris Clarkson, Samuel Howe-Barrett and Jasmine Hackett in Peter Pan at the Theatre Royal in 2019.
Anna Campkin, Oliver Mawdsley, Lauren Chinery, Chris Clarkson, Samuel Howe-Barrett and Jasmine Hackett in Peter Pan at the Theatre Royal in 2019.

It's been going well, we have such different audiences depending on the time of day, such as at the moment we have a lot of schools coming in for the matinee performances, adults tend to visit the show in the evening but there is this beautiful hybrid of Saturday matinees where you get laughs throughout when the children laugh at the toilet humour and the grown ups laugh at the jokes included for them.

What's your favourite thing about your role this year?

It's a special one for me this year because I've been panto Dame here for a few years but in Cinderella I am playing a dual role as an ugly sister as a double act but we're playing the baddies instead of the goodies and I've never been the baddie before in panto so getting people to boo me and and jeer has taken some getting used too.

Chris first auditioned for panto at the Theatre Royal for Karen Simpson, the artistic director at the time.
Chris first auditioned for panto at the Theatre Royal for Karen Simpson, the artistic director at the time.

How have you found playing the bad guy?

I'm lucky that the role is part of a double act because especially in panto, being the baddie can be quiet a lonely role.

British people do this funny thing of clapping for all the characters but when the baddie comes on they are still clapping but they are also booing so it can be quite funny to watch.

What do you do between shows?

Chris Clarkson as Tiger Lily and Anna Campkin as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan at the Theatre Royal in 2019.
Chris Clarkson as Tiger Lily and Anna Campkin as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan at the Theatre Royal in 2019.

It depends how long the gap is between, sometimes you have 50 minutes between performances so you have enough time for a cup of tea and as much sugar as you can get down you.

On split show days you have a bit longer so if I can I will go home and have a nap.

You are very popular in the Theatre Royal, why do you think that is?

I remember when I was a kid in theatre it was an amazing feeling when the adult performers knew who I was and it was an even better feeling when they would learn my name, so I make a point of learning everyone's names as soon as I can.

I am often stopped by people involved in some way in the show when I'm out and I think if you make the time for people it can only have a positive effect for both parties.

Tickets are still available for Cinderella and can be purchased at the Theatre Royal website.