Peter Pan prepares to come to the Chrysalis Theatre

As a classic Panto flies into the Chrysalis Theatre this Christmas, Cara Lee catches up with a few of its stars for Celebrate:MK…

The first person we chat to is Eggheads star CJ de Mooi, who’s playing the villainous Captain Hook.

Every Panto needs a dramatic villain that the audience loves to hate and he agrees.

“I’ve done, I think, 10 Pantos and in every one but the first one I’ve played the baddie.”, he explains, discussing his role in the show particular. “It’s the best character to play, you can have so much fun, you’ve got so much freedom. In a way, you don’t need to get people to like you, you need exactly the opposite, you need them to be afraid of you.”

Another more chaotic star of the show is Mr Blobby, who CJ also talks about, saying: “I mean, he’s iconic isn’t he? He’s one of those TV characters that even if you’ve never seen him, you know about him, you know who he is, you know what he does and I think more importantly you know what to expect. And he’s going to add such a sense of fun and randomness and chaos to this production – no two nights are ever going to be the same!”

This is of course the first proper Panto season post-Covid, which really makes it something special. As Lucy Rose Rollason, who’ll be playing the lead role of Peter Pan, says:

“Especially with having 18 months of theatres being closed, I think having that audience interaction is even more important than it was before and I think it reminds you how lucky we are to be able to do this for our jobs and entertain people and bring the magic of Pantomime to Milton Keynes.”

And what are her earliest Panto memories?

“My first Pantomime actually as a professional actress was I was 15 years old and it was Peter Pan and I played Tiger Lily alongside Darren Day as Captain Hook and the last time I did it was then, so it’s so nice to be coming back as Peter, yeah it’s lovely.”

The show is taking place at the Chrysalis Theatre, which is within the Camphill Community.

As CEO Tim Davies says: “we have around 70 people with a range of learning difficulties and Autism, so they receive support from our staff, and they attend workshops and the theatre is one of those.”

He also discusses the importance of the space for those who might not otherwise be able to access the arts. As he puts it:

“Having a disability shouldn’t exclude you from enjoying music and theatre and art and creativity.

And the other side of it is for the people who come to the theatre to engage with the people that live here and kind of demystifying some of those issues around disability.

People often are quite fearful around people with disabilities, they’re worried how they might respond, how they engage with them. Our people get really involved in the running of the theatre. They might do backstage work, they might sell ice creams, they might do the lighting, so they get really involved and really enjoy all the activity.”

Finally, we ask all three of them where they’d go if they could fly anywhere like Peter Pan.

While Lucy tells us: “Disneyland! Disneyland, all the way”.

Tim gets personal with his answer, as he says: “When things hit I was working in South Africa with one of our communities there, so I’d really love to go back there and see how they’re doing now because I know they’ve struggled a lot.”

Finally CJ tells us that: “If I could fly I’d actually want to fly over Mount Everest, I’d actually see how beautiful it was, if I could go to the highest spot on earth, looking down and knowing that you’re above the entire world.”

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