EastEnders star relishes role of Crawley panto villain

Rita Simons as Captain Hook (Photo by Jon Rigby)Rita Simons as Captain Hook (Photo by Jon Rigby)
Rita Simons as Captain Hook (Photo by Jon Rigby)
Rita Simons – best known for her role as Roxy Mitchell in BBC’s EastEnders and her time on I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here in 2018 – is relishing the prospect of being Crawley's first female Captain Hook.

It is the perfect way of being precisely the kind of villain Rita so loves being.

“This is my seventh panto, I think, and it's the first time that I don't have to work in fishnet tights and a corset, but I don't think there's really any significance to being a female Captain Hook. I don't think I really gave it any thought but it's just such a great role and I love being the baddie. I'm always the baddie. It is just so much more fun. I tried to be the goodie once and it was the most boring panto of my life. It was Aladdin and it was just really really boring. I'm a baddie through and through. I think the fact that I am so hyper is perfect for the baddie role and I can be quite scary when I want to be! I could never be a Cinderella. I've always loved the baddies and actually can be quite deranged. It's about relying on instinct. There's no philosophy to the way I play it and it's great.

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“It is the one job in the year when you can really go for it. When you're doing a lot of musical theatre and theatre and plays and so on, you're very much doing what the director wants you to do or if you're in a big West End show you are doing what previous people have done but panto is great because it's the one show when you can just really let rip!”

For her first panto Rita was approached by panto producer Paul Hendy while she was still in EastEnders: “He had worked with my screen sister Sam Womack and with other people and we all knew each other and Paul just said would I do it. I just thought I didn't know how but I wanted to try it, and I just took to it and I just loved it. I took to it like a fish to water.

“I was still doing EastEnders at that point but it was because of Paul that I went into theatre. Before EastEnders I was a gigging singer. I had done all the arenas and I had been a support act on tour, but this was my first time on a stage acting.

“I did ten years on EastEnders and I loved it so much. We had great fun. I still speak to Sam all the time. She is my best friend and I'm still great friends with lots of people from my time on the show. I look back on it so fondly. It gave me so much even though I've been gone five years now. I can't believe it but Ronnie (Samantha Womack) and Roxy (Rita) were such iconic figures in the show that in a way they do kind of carry on. No one will ever forget them. I get to carry the character for a long while.

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“It was super high pressure but it was OK. I loved it. I had two young twins at the time so it was go to work, do the work, come home, sort the kids, learn the lines, get up, take the kids to school, do the work and so on. It was really hard. It was more pressure because I had the children but really I just totally loved it.”

Tickets are available at hawth.co.uk or The Hawth box office (10am-4pm, Mon-Fri) on 01293 553636.

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