Dames, dinners and 18 dresses: Peter Pan stars give a behind-the-scenes insight into panto life

Refusing to appear onstage in the same dress twice, Ceri Dupree, who plays the dame and Smee’s mother, Mrs Smee, in the Derngate’s production of Peter Pan, has brought no fewer than 18 costumes to the stage.

“They are all my own and I have a total collection of 700 back home,” said Ceri. “I just had a new storage unit built in my garden to keep them all.”

Costumes for Mrs Smee

Costumes for Mrs Smee

With a whole dressing room and section backstage crammed with Mrs Smee’s glamorous wardrobe, including shoes and wigs, she is more than just a “typical bloke in a dress” dame and her outfits get bigger and brighter as the show goes on.

“But the hardest part is the costume changes between scenes, some of which are less than a minute,” said Ceri.

“I have two dressers to get me in and out of the outfits quickly and everything has to be tightly choreographed. If something isn’t in the right place at the right time you can be late on stage. The audience doesn’t see the carnage that can go on behind the scenes.”

A familiar face at the Derngate - having starred in Hot Stuff and getting ready to return with a one-man show in 2015 - Ceri has been performing as the most fabulous female stars in showbiz for more than 32 years.

Joe Pasquale getting ready for the show

Joe Pasquale getting ready for the show

“I have a repertoire of about 80 personalities. It all started with a Shirley Bassey bit I performed in a cabaret club when I left school and now I have done shows in London, abroad and I will be jetting off to perform in Las Vegas next month.”

But Ceri returns to the panto world as the classic dame character almost every year and says that the best part is always the reaction from children.

“It’s because they really do believe in the show and the magic we create,” said Ceri, “and that’s what Christmas is all about.

“Pantomime is the way to get children hooked on theatre and performing arts. It brings people into auditoriums every year and it is still the favourite family show.”

Playing Mrs Smee’s son, renowned UK comedian Joe Pasquale is also passionate about panto.

“I love doing it - it would be far too much hard work if I didn’t.

“We are putting on 60 shows in four weeks and the last one has to be just as good as the first, so it is a full-time job the whole way through. Being on stage for 90 per cent of the show means I have to keep the adrenaline running solidly for about four hours every day.

“I have worked with Ceri for five years but have been in comedy for 30, and my friends and family still come to watch every show.”

Normally based in Kent, Joe is staying in Northampton until the panto closes in January and said that the biggest challenge is keeping healthy and eating properly while on the road. With only Christmas Day off for the cast members, he is looking forward to Christmas dinner back home before hitting the stage again on Boxing Day.

Matinee and evening performances run up until Sunday, January 4, and are priced from £14-£28. To book, call the Box Office on: Northampton 624811 or visit: www.royalandderngate.co.uk