Anne Charleston featuring in Christmas PantoBy David Millward
July 13, 2011
Actor Anne Charleston may have avoided being type cast as Madge from Neighbours – but now she is in danger of becoming a one-character panto star.
This Christmas she will be playing the Empress of China in Aladdin for the second year in a row.
But the gravel-voiced soap star is under no illusion that previous experience will make her task any easier at The Hexagon in December.
“I was Empress of China last year in Torquay’s panto,” she explains.
“The script is different every year and I’m working with a different production company, so it won’t be the same.”
Anne is now an established panto performer having also enjoyed leading roles in a variety of traditional favourites including Cinderella,
Dick Whittington, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
But this will be the first time she has come to Reading to perform – and she can’t wait to bring joy and laughter to the town’s children.
She will be co-starring with Justin Fletcher – the CBeebies clown Mr Tumble – and Jolyon Dixon who appeared as Nurse Nanny Nora in last year’s production of Sleeping Beauty.
Anne says: “I think it will be rather fun – panto is usually fun.
“You are usually working with a great team and the kids are out there anticipating every next moment.
“I think this year it will be rehearsals for about two weeks and that’s about as much as you ever get.
“The hardest I have ever done is five days and I really don’t ever want to do that again.
“For the first week we had the script in the wings. It was quite traumatic.”
Anne has been seeing quite a few theatres around the country in the last year, having toured with Calendar Girls, and she is just coming to the end of a tour of Five Blue Haired Ladies Sitting On A Green Park Bench.
Talking from Cardiff, she said she is looking forward to having a single base during the Aladdin’s five-week run.
The 67-year-old says: “At least I will be in the same place for a few weeks. When you are on tour it’s much more difficult, moving on every week.”
Anne’s international career took off playing Madge Bishop, wife of hapless Harold, in the long-running Aussie soap Neighbours which she left, for a second and final time, in 2001.
Since then she has had roles in Emmerdale, the short-lived revival of Crossroads and also in the sitcom Dossa and Joe. A veteran of TV and radio, she’s made many guest appearances on a wide range of programmes – but she still finds it difficult to shake off the ‘Madge’ label.
“It’s dragged on a bit long because I left the show 11 years ago and have done three TV series since then and heaps of other stuff – so it does get a but tedious,” she says.
“But I have got a lot to thank Madge for so it cuts both ways.”
Aladdin opens at The Hexagon on Saturday, December 6 to Sunday, January 8.
Tickets for the pantomime are already on sale. Seats for the opening weekend are £13, all other tickets are £17 and discounts are available for youth and school groups plus groups of more than 10.
For more details, call (0118) 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com.