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From Strictly to Neverland: Anton Du Beke on panto, pirates and the joy of Christmas

From the glittering ballroom to the enchanting world of Neverland, Anton Du Beke is all set to embark on a new adventure this festive season.

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The Strictly star will star as Smee in Crossroads Pantomimes production of Peter Pan at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre this Christmas.

He’ll star alongside Paul Chuckle, Nigel Ellacott, Chloe Riley, Georgia Brierley-Smith and Bob Harms.

In this interview, Anton shares his excitement for the upcoming production, the secrets of a fantastic pantomime, and why Christmas holds a special place in his heart.

Discussing getting panto, Anton shares: “Well, life changed when I became a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. I’ve always wanted to do it because it’s a massive tradition in the UK. Panto is a major part of the festive season but when I was dancing on Strictly Come Dancing, of course I wasn’t able to do it because of the production schedules but the lovely Craig Revel Horwood has always done.

“Since I’ve become a judge I’ve been able to do it as Craig does, so when the opportunity opened up and they asked if I’d like to, I jumped at it.”

Peter Pan Cast pose for a group photo
Peter Pan Cast at Mr Mulligan’s Pirate Golf, Hoebridge Golf Centre – NVT Woking Peter Pan – Credit Ian Olsson

Asked about the secrets of a great pantomime, Anton says: “Everybody being brilliant and doing their bit properly. With pantomimes, certainly with Crossroads pantomimes, you get these wonderful scenery sets, fabulous costumes and great characters, so as long as everybody is doing their bit properly looking amazing and the Dame looks fantastic – our Dame is just legendary – I think a lot revolves around the Dame in pantomime actually.

“In the couple that I’ve done, I think the Dames and the Ugly Sisters are such a major part of the show and our Dame is amazing. The expression ‘Don’t build your part up, it’s already written for you’ is quite important. Although it’s a panto, it’s still a play with often songs and music.”

Anton continues: ” I just love being out on stage in front of everybody. That’s my favourite thing. You’ve always got two audiences at a pantomime, you’ve got the children and you’ve got the adults. Often a lot of the gags don’t work with the children but do work with the adults and visa versa but it’s lovely when it all comes together.

“It’s such a wonderful atmosphere in a pantomime. It’s just exciting and fun and it’s the festive period – I love Christmas. It’s just gorgeous.”

Peter Pan cast pose for a group photo on the stage in front of a blue curtain
Peter Pan cast on stage of the New Victoria Theatre in Woking. Credit Ian Olsson

And as for whether or not we’ll be seeing Anton showing off his dance moves in the production, he laughs: “I will be doing a number, this is for sure. Just try and stop me.”

Peter Pan runs from Friday, 8 December 2023 to Sunday, 7 January 2024 at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, with matinee and evening performances including relaxed and assisted shows. Book tickets here

About the author: Josh Darvill

Josh is Stageberry's editor with over five years of experience writing about theatre in the West End and across the UK. Prior to following his passion for musicals, he worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist.