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Christopher thrives on thrill of panto

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 15, 2012

Look out! He's behind you! Christopher Biggins appears with children's TV favourite Basil Brush in Dick Whittington at Plymouth's Theatre Royal

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Theatre Royal, Plymouth, until January 19

If just the tiniest bit of festive weariness is setting in, try the company of Christopher Biggins. He wishes it could be Christmas every day. Well, a Christmas show every day.

There is no suggestion that his enthusiasm for the seasonal fun is behind him, even after more than 40 years in pantomimes. This year he is Sarah the Cook in Dick Whittington which opened at the Theatre Royal Plymouth last night.

"It is hard work. We do 12 performances a week," concedes the actor, who will turn 64 tomorrow. "It is tough but so rewarding because the audiences are fantastic, especially in Plymouth. They do love their panto here and I just love doing it."

Christopher is joined in the cast by children's TV favourite Basil Brush (Alderman Foxwarren), musical theatre specialist Sam Cassidy (Dick), impressionist Hilary O'Neil (Spirit of the Bells) and Torbay-based comedian Ben Nickless (Simple Simon).

Younger members of the Theatre Royal audience will know Christopher as the winner of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! in 2007. Mums and dads and grandparents will remember him from the BBC heavyweight drama I, Claudius in the 1970s and as the wicked vicar in the Westcountry mining saga Poldark, which followed the acclaimed Roman history series.

Throughout his working life there has been panto. He broke a run of 38 years when I'm A Celebrity clashed with the build-up up to the festive show but has not missed one since. He was most recently at the Theatre Royal three years ago, playing Widow Twankey in Aladdin.

"Plymouth is probably the premier modern theatre in England," he says, unprompted. "It is a fantastic theatre, beautifully run. The audiences are fantastic. Panto is a breeding ground for theatre. If they enjoy themselves they may come to next year's panto and more importantly they may come to theatre in between."

Box office: 01752 267222.

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