A LEGENDARY pantomime dame has vowed to leave audiences rolling in the aisles when he returns to a North East theatre this Christmas.

Christopher Biggins will be donning his frock at Darlington Hippodrome to appear in Peter Pan over the festive season.

The much-loved actor began his career as a panto dame in Darlington more than 45 years ago, when he appeared in Mother Goose at the former Civic Theatre.

Decades later, and now an inductee in the 'Pantomime Hall of Fame', Biggins is playing Mrs Smee in Peter Pan, which begins its run at the Hippodrome from December 9.

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He told The Northern Echo he is delighted to be back on the stage after Covid and political upheaval has made for a "difficult time" for theatres over the last three years.

The Northern Echo: Christopher Biggins is starring in the Darlington pantomime for the first time in more than 40 yearsChristopher Biggins is starring in the Darlington pantomime for the first time in more than 40 years (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

"It's good that we're now breaking free from all that," he said.

"And it's exciting to be with this new venture, making theatre work again and available to everybody.

"People want to have an enjoyable time and have a good laugh - and we will make sure of that."

In Peter Pan, Biggins is leading a cast which also includes Whitley Bay-born Steve Arnott as Captain Hook, Rikki Jay as Smee, Peter Peverley as Starkey, Sheri Lineham as Wendy Darling and Tegan Bannister as Tinkerbell.

The Northern Echo: Steve Arnott as Captain HookSteve Arnott as Captain Hook (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

With James Hameed playing Peter Pan, Hippodrome bosses are promising a "fun-filled Christmas extravaganza".

Biggins, who described the Hippodrome as a "magnificent" theatre said the secret to being a great panto dame is "communication".

"You have to be able to connect with the audience," he said.

"I'm lucky enough to be able to improvise, talk to the audience and get a relationship going.

"From the point of view of a pantomime dame, you change your costume every entrance and being big has always been an advantage because the costumes look funny.

"It's a great thing to be able to do - to be able to just walk on stage and get a laugh, purely from the costume."

The Northern Echo: James Hameed is Peter PanJames Hameed is Peter Pan (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

Biggins believes there is a North-South divide in theatres and said: "Without doubt the North is the best."

He added: "Its a wonderful thing. For children it's often the first time they've ever been to the theatre and hopefully, if they enjoyed themselves, they'll not only come back to next year's pantomime, but book to see shows in between.

"So I've always thought we were a breeding ground for the theatre.

"It's fantastic and it's a wonderful thing to be involved in."

* Peter Pan runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Friday, December 9 to Saturday, December 31, 2023. For more details, or to book, call 01325-405405 or visit darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk

The Northern Echo: Sheri Lineham is WendySheri Lineham is Wendy (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

The Northern Echo: Tinkerbell, played by Tegan BannisterTinkerbell, played by Tegan Bannister (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

The Northern Echo: Peter Peverley who plays Starkey and Steve Arnott who plays Captain Hook Peter Peverley who plays Starkey and Steve Arnott who plays Captain Hook (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

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