DINNERLADIES and Casualty star Sue Devaney jumped at the chance to do pantomime in Sheffield this year – because she got the chance to fly.
Sue, who plays the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella at the Lyceum, took on the same role for national panto production company Evolution at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury last year. She said: “Honestly, I just love flying and of course you get to fly on and off and I have my comedy flying entrances, so I thought I’ve got to do it.”
The Bolton lass added: “I can make it more northern this time because I had to de-nothernise her a bit in Canterbury, otherwise they wouldn’t understand me. I can put all the northern sayings in it now.”
Another lure was working again with “the boys” – Ian Smith and Michael Batchelor, who play the Ugly Sisters – and Kate Quinell as Cinderella. She added: “Evolution also get a good team of actors, not a celebrity that’s been in a TV show, something like that, which I think is really important.
“Panto is a real skill. Damian (Williams, playing Buttons) is hysterically funny but that’s a real skill, you can’t really just get on and say your lines.
“I did one in Manchester in the Opera House and they had a soap actor who was really big at the time but he didn’t really know the way that panto works and it wasn’t good. To make it as good as it can be you have to get people that can sing and dance.
“Kate, who’s playing Cinderella, is brilliant – she’s a fantastic singer, fantasic actor, fantastic dancer – and that’s what you need, isn’t it?”
She added: “I love the Sheffield audiences, they’re really up for it aren’t they? It just feels lovely.”
Sue is probably best known as a regular in Dinnerladies and for her role as paramedic Liz Harker in long-running BBC hospital drama Casualty. She played Debbie Webster in Coronation Street and starred in Channel 4’s Shameless. She has also enjoyed a lot of success in the theatre and is a comedy writer and performer.
Sue said she had some funny moments playing the Fairy Godmother in Canterbury. “I had a turquoise bra and and it caught on my dress in the dressing room. The audience were killing themselves laughing as I was flying on stage and I thought what were they laughing about? The bra was attached to me! You have to make something of that then. Things like that happen and it’s getting out of that.
“In panto you can really get away with it, can’t you? The audience love being involved in it all.
“I like to add my own little bits to the role – apart from the bras. I’ve asked for pixie ears and a big wig this year.”
She thinks that pantomimes have retained their popularity because they are sheer entertainment.
“We were talking about the recession. People do want a good time at the minute. I was doing the Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Bolton Octagon and it is a feelgood play because it’s got songs in it and I think it’s a play of hope and I think that’s what people want now. There’s fantastic stuff that is depressing but especially nowadays they want to feel good. They need to laugh.
“Even people who don’t go to the theatre from one year to the next go to the panto at Christmas because they want to be entertained. It’s that family unit that comes out between December and January!”
Like a lot of people, Sue’s introduction to the theatre was seeing a Christmas show as a child and she remembers how it fascinated her.
She admits she gets carried away with it all: “I think I can create that magic. When I am on stage I believe I am the fairy godmother and I can make dreams come true!”
Sue added that working in pantomime helps her retain some of the magic of this time of year: “I love working over Christmas as I don’t like buying and spending and all the sales. I love it because I start work in November and by time you’ve finished in January you’ve missed it all! I can’t stand it.
“Christmas is a time for peace and love and harmony but actually every day should be like that. Christmas, because a lot of people aren’t religious any more, has become about spending and buying materialistic things and saying ‘I want that so I’m having that,’ and ‘buy this, buy this, buy this’.
“I haven’t got kids but I imagine the pressure to do Christmas and that’s why I love panto because it is a thing that is traditional and been done for years. I do like the fact that when I’ve done it’s all over and I’ve missed it all!”
Cinderella is at the Lyceum until January 6. Of course, there may still be sales on in the shops…