'The show must go on': Panto boss steps up to the stage after Northampton actor takes ill just hours before show

Show boss Kevin Roach - right - had to step up to the role of Baron Hardup with just hours before a show.
Show boss Kevin Roach - right - had to step up to the role of Baron Hardup with just hours before a show.

A Northampton panto boss was forced to make his onstage debut this Christmas when one of his actors became seriously unwell with just hours before a show.

The Deco Theatre's run of Cinderella ran without a hitch for most of its billed nights in December.

But with a week of shows still to go and only hours until the next performance, the production's Baron Hardup - played by Northampton actor Clive Fletcher - was rushed to hospital with sepsis. It quickly became clear he would be too unwell to return.

The show's executive producer, Kevin Roach, was faced with finding an immediate replacement.

But rather than call in an actor with no experience with the script or show, Mr Roach instead stepped up to the mark and put on The Baron's costume himself - even though his whole career had been behind the scenes rather than onstage.

Mr Roach said: "We had two shows to do that day, so I had to make an extremely quick decision.

“I knew the show, so I decided I was probably the best option. That said, I quickly realised that knowing the show and knowing the script were two different things, but I got through those two shows, and then grew into it.

“The cast was brilliant and incredibly supportive, and the audiences were fantastic too – and also extremely generous in their kind comments on social media.

"In the end, I can honestly say I almost enjoyed it, though I would like to go on record and say that my career will not now be taking a new turn – I’m more than happy doing what I do.”

Mr Roach played the role for seven shows in all before the panto ended its run on December 29.

Meanwhile, Clive Fletcher is now back home and is set to make a full recovery.