Christopher will be playing the dame in Aladdin is at the Regis Centre from Tuesday, December 12-Tuesday, January 2 (01243 861010).
“I don’t know Bognor very well at all,” he confesses. “I haven’t played here before, but I have seen shows here. I came to see my friend Bobby Crush doing a variety show here, and what I loved about the place is that it is just so friendly and welcoming.
“It makes such a difference. The Kings in Southsea is very friendly too. It is a wonderful place. I just love people that have a passion. You get the friendliness and the warmth coming through. It is like you are all one big happy family, and I know that is the case in Bognor too.”
This year, Christopher – last at the Kings as Baron Hardup two years ago – is back in a frock. He has been playing the dame more or less every year since the millennium year – a very natural progression, as he says, through the panto ranks.
“I have been doing panto all my life. I started off in the chorus as a dancer and then understudy, and then I became the comic and then the principal boy, and then I got to 40 and you can’t do that anymore! And so I did villain and from villain into ugly sister and from ugly sister into dame. I have played every part apart from principal girl – and I don’t think I am going to be doing that! But I love playing the dame. It is so good to be over the top. It is like appearing in a cartoon!”
Christopher recognises the things you have absolutely got to get right as the dame: “The first thing is warmth. It is all about warmth to the audience. You have got to be their daft, fat, silly mum! You have got to feel that warmth. It has got to come through.”
Evil is fun too: “When I was playing Abanazar once, it was so against my nature, but it made me feel very powerful. But the dame is very different.
“I have been in the business 39 years, and this is my 30th pantomime. Sometimes with the other Christmases, I have been in musicals or abroad. I have done a lot of work for P&O on the cruises, so I have not always done a pantomime every year, but I have always been working. I don’t know what it would be like to have Christmas off. I am so used to working.
“But actually, the theatre I worked at in Essex gave us Boxing Day off. In the old days, Boxing Day was when the pantos would have started… and then gone on until March, but things have changed a little bit since then!”
After three years on the trot at the Kings in Southsea, for Christopher a change is as good as a rest: “I think it is good for them to have a change, as good as it is for me. Last year I was up in Norfolk, but it is good to be closer to home again.”