The panto fun continues in Eastbourne

Carli Norris says it’s a thrill beyond measure finally to be back on that panto stage.

Carli Norris
Carli Norris

She’s making her Eastbourne panto debut in Sleeping Beauty at the Devonshire Park Theatre from December 10-January 9. Known to millions for her long-running roles as Brenda Slater in EastEnders, Fran Reynolds in Holby City and Martha Kane in Hollyoaks, Carli is delighted to return.

“I just can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be back on the stage again. It’s great. It’s a shame that we can’t do all the usual things like the cast going out for a little drink and so on. We are kind of self-isolating as a bubble but I do always think on the first day of rehearsals for panto that Christmas has started!

“The show is pretty much back to normal for a panto but I am the evil character and I do have a two-metre long staff so I can push people away if I want to! But seriously we’re trying to be careful and not get too close to each other and we are all testing every day and there is lots of hand sanitiser everywhere. It is just a question of being extra careful. I don’t think I will have any extra nervousness (because of the pandemic). The problem is one that we all know especially people with children but I do think everyone is being kind to each other and being more responsible, and we won’t be really close to the audience. We’re not doing any of the usual running in and out of the auditorium that we usually do in panto but really there are no nerves at all because I’m just glad to be back!

“Everyone is really, really on it. We are just so excited that we’ve got a job. Everybody had learned their lines before they came to start the rehearsals. It’s really simple choreography but it just feels so extraordinary and watching the show I just can’t stop laughing.

“I have worked at Devonshire Park in the past in a play called Turn Of The Screw and I just absolutely love Eastbourne.

“I think it’s the architecture and also the beach is just wonderful because it’s not overcrowded, but it’s also the people. Everyone is so friendly.

“My first panto was the Mercury Theatre in Colchester in 2017, I believe. I didn’t know what I was doing and I took it as it very seriously. I played a very dark wicked queen and got nominated for a panto award! That was lovely and then the next time I was playing a fairy and I realised that I am actually bad at heart! What I do when I’m playing a baddie is that I don’t take it very, very seriously now and I try to enable a bit of comedy to come in so that people can laugh at me rather than with me. I find the comedy and I run with it. I love getting booed. It is the only time as a performer that you want to get booed!

“During the pandemic I wasn’t able to do any acting obviously, but I already had a business called Chocodolly (based in Colchester, offering vintage style dresses and clothing).

“And last Christmas I needed a fairy for the tree so I made myself one and a lot of people liked it. I put it on Facebook and a lot of people were asking me to make them one and then all of a sudden I was getting orders from across the world. I was working seven days a week creating these tiny little pixies out of wire and tights and off-cuts. My little daughters were helping out and my husband was helping out. We were all sitting in front of the TV fashioning bikinis for these little pixies. It has been great fun!”