“We have been away for so long but we have made it and that’s what has driven my suggestion for my entrance song this year. I’m going to come onto the stage to The Boys Are Back In Town with my Dame Martyn (Knight).”
The panto is Sleeping Beauty at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre from December 10-January 9.
“I have been working now with Martyn for nine years. The first panto we did together was Eastbourne and we have always been together at Eastbourne. We were just cast together. There was a comedy actor here prior to me and then I took over.
“I think the reason that we work so well together is the fact that we are a bit like chalk and cheese. Martyn’s background is quite musical theatre and acting and my background is comedy. Martyn provides the structure and I provide a little bit of chaos. I’m not afraid to go off book a bit on stage. Martin provides the structure and allows me to do that and also he gives me somewhere to come back to.
“We have become a partnership. We are only rarely not on stage together. I think I am in 12 scenes and there are only two scenes that I’m not on stage with him. And we’re good friends. We were talking during our sabbatical year all the time and checking how we were. He was asking after my family and the children.”
And it’s friendships like that that helped everyone get through: “When it all started to go wrong I was actually on a cruise ship and I got stuck on a cruise ship out in the Caribbean for three weeks. It was fine in a way because we were sheltered from the real world. We were watching all the stuff on TV but you could never really understand what was happening until we got back to Gatwick.
“My wife picked me up and then it became really strange. Everyone was queuing and people were looking for toilet rolls and pasta and it was just weird what was going on. She picked me up on Mother’s Day and the next day we went into lockdown and I was back home. I have young children and I was fortunate that I never lost anyone close to me. And the time just gave me a chance to stand still and be around family. I had not had that chance for a long time. I had been on the go for 25 years non-stop, just chasing it all the time. Now there was no need to worry that I wasn’t working because nobody else was working. And I can remember listening to Radio 2 and people were worried about coming out of lockdown. It was just wow.
“And there is something to be said for sleeping in your own bed all the time and not having to travel all the time and being on the move all the time. And then it became a financial thing. After a while I did a job for Hermes delivery for about a month. It was just something for me to do really. I felt like I needed to do something. It was really all very bizarre
“And in the moment of all the lockdowns I remember thinking I was never going to allow myself to be that busy again, that things would change. But once we came out of the third lockdown it has just been absolutely non-stop again and I realised that I’ve come straight back out and onto the treadmill!”