DESPITE having never seen a panto, Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood is on his fourth incarnation as the Wicked Queen, performing this Christmas at the Wycombe Swan.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is being performed at the Swan from December 7- January 5, reuniting Craig with his Strictly nemesis and former politician Ann Widdecombe.
Craig said: "It’s not a tradition I’ve ever been used to as we don’t have it in Australia and America, I’d never seen one, all I knew was they booed at you. But then everyone was saying I was the pantomime villain on Strictly.
"I’d never been interested in it as I’m from a very different end of theatre and it wasn’t in my repertoire but when I was in it I loved it. It’s an amazing form of theatre."
Since then, he has performed the role in Llandudno, Crawley and Dartford. Last year, he decided to bring in former Strictly contestant Ann Widdecombe as a sidekick.
Craig and Ann had been performing together on the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour and Craig said the combination "brought the house down".
"One night, I took her aside and suggested if she would like to try panto. I didn’t expect her to say yes but I’m glad she did as it’s a huge success.
"The roles have been reversed, as lady-in-waiting she has all the one-liners and puts me down the entire time. It’s like she’s getting payback for her time on Strictly." Ann said: "I don’t think I’d ever imagined being in panto. I was actually offered panto donkeys years ago but turned it down as I was still an MP and it would have been horribly inappropriate but someone must have seen the potential.
"By the end of the Strictly tour I’d established Craig and I worked well together and could make people laugh so it wasn’t as much as a surprise as if he’d asked me in the middle of Strictly when he was being so rude to me. I think he might have had to convince the theatre management though"
Since performing together in Dartford last year, Craig and Ann have honed their act and Ann says there will be more dancing in this year’s show.
Ann said: "If there was one thing that didn’t come off last year it was the amount of time we danced together, there wasn’t enough of it. So this year we’ve enlarged it and will be doing some more.
"I never did dancing on Strictly, Anton [Du Beke, her Strictly professional partner] will tell you that. We went flying and spinning and lifting, anything but try and dance."
Craig said: "She hasn’t improved her dancing, I’ve tried and I’ve tried with her but she has no musicality whatsoever."
This will also be the first year Craig is directing the show, something he was approached to do four years ago, and he says he prefers this to performing. Over his career, he has directed West End Show such as West Side Story and Miss Saigon.
"I like performing but to be honest, I prefer directing. Performing this is very gruelling, two shows a day is a slog as I drive the whole show and constantly pushing it forward. The only time I walk off is to change costume and that happens about 13 times."
Craig says he has friends living in High Wycombe but Ann has just visited a few times and is looking forward to "getting to know the place".
Craig said: "I like High Wycombe, it’s quite a happening little town isn’t it, almost a city now, it’s getting bigger and bigger. I’ve got friends who live in High Wycombe so I’ve been up here and stayed with them for weekends."
If you were still not convinced to attend the show, Craig commented: "It’s great fun, a great story with fantastic morals and kids love it. It’s one of the first live shows a child will see and I think it’s really important in the theatre to involve them."
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is performing at the Wycombe Swan theatre in High Wycombe from Friday December 7-Saturday January 5. Tickets range from £20.50 to £27.50 and are available from 01494 512000 or www.wycombeswan.co.uk
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