Craig Revel Horwood: Strictly panto star

Round & About

Craig Revel Horwood shares his thoughts on Strictly, his varied schedule and meeting his wax twin.

Q: We have heard about your waxwork doppelganger in Blackpool – what was it like meeting him? A: “It was quite bizarre, seeing another me because no one ever sees themselves three dimensionally like that! It was so lifelike it was ridiculous. My mum was there and she couldn’t tell us apart! We had the launch in Blackpool Tower. Of course the last time I’d been there was with Strictly and they had spotlights on it in the centre of the ballroom, six dancing girls and fireworks…it was incredible!”

Q: Are you looking forward to playing the Wicked Stepmother in the panto Cinderella at Woking’s New Victoria theatre? A: “I do feel like I’ve come full circle, I just wish I was as beautiful as I was 30 years ago! You have to look after yourself as you can’t go off partying the whole time… but it’s fantastic, it keeps me thin all the way through Christmas! [Pantomime} is an introduction for children to live theatre and as live theatre is my passion I really encourage that. It also teaches children generally about theatre, which I think is the most important thing about doing panto. Coming to the theatre is a unique and individual experience and you can interact with the cast too… it’s great!”

Q: You seem to have a hectic schedule, do you? “I’m working on material now for Christmas 2020. It is crazy! As for Strictly  I still get very excited and very nervous when I hear the opening music… It’s a whole new bunch of people, a whole new cast each time, so it’s always fresh. Seeing people who’ve never danced before realising dance can actually be taught.. and just seeing the enjoyment that people get out of it is great. It’s a gift.. people are no longer socially inept when it comes to dancing and that’s fantastic! It’s the only show really you can have on a Saturday night with the whole family… It’s great fun, the best Saturday job ever!”

Q: Which is your favourite dance to do yourself? “The Argentine Tango is my favourite, I just love that; it’s the way the body is intertwined, how fast it is and how the woman responds to the man’s lead and how much is improvised, it’s a very cool dance, when it’s done well!”

Q: How do you feel about Shirley Ballas’ addition to the judging panel? A: “I think Shirley has made a fantastic addition to the Strictly family, she’s really confident and has learned to be less technical which is good, I think, as that can bedazzle people… she’s fitted in nicely and it’s wonderful having another woman on the panel.”

Q: You’ve directed the opera La Traviata and seem willing to tackle an infinite variety of projects? “As long as I’m in the Arts, those challenges push you forwards. I conducted Act II of La Boheme which was amazing… I studied music at school and can read music which helps and I’ve been singing, dancing and acting to music my whole life so this was really another way to understand what the conductor does. When you’re doing it yourself you get very immersed in it and you and the music become one.”

Q: You’ve written a new volume of autobiography, out soon, In Strictest Confidence, how do you feel about that? “It’s a good, fun read. I try and keep it light but it’s also tackling the death of my father and goes into all the emotions that one goes through. [His first memoir] All Balls & Glitter was really to get skeletons out of the closet so other people couldn’t tell stories about me; whereas this one is answering questions that people ask.. about Strictly, about my life and how one copes with being a celebrity and how that changes your life entirely.”

Q: Do you enjoy being in the public gaze? “The only thing I find good about being a celebrity is that you can raise money for charity and I’ve done quite a lot of that. My mum has chronic rheumatoid arthritis but osteoporosis can be prevented by exercise up to the age of 23 so that’s why it was a charity I chose in order to change people’s lives.”

Q: What was it like choreographing the final scene in Paddington 2, the big dance number led by Hugh Grant? “I taught Hugh to tap dance which was fun; he was absolutely fantastic and really applied himself because it’s tough; he literally learned in three weeks but was spending three hours a day practising.”

Q: You’re also reprising the role of Miss Hannigan in Annie in the West End… A: “She’s wonderful, a misunderstood character who actually has a lot of love to give but unfortunately the children don’t see that. She just really wants a man in her life to take care of her and not finding it tries to find the answers at the bottom of a bottle which, as we know, doesn’t work. I just enjoy her, she’s a lovely character and is funny and scary with it too, you don’t often get all that!”

Q: What’s your life philosophy? “Life is very short and you have to just go out and don’t fear anything. I’m open to whatever comes along. I’d love to direct a film as well but I think I need to act first to see how it all works then can apply everything I’ve learned from that (and from directing musicals) to film.. and perhaps promote dance in film. I’d love to do that!”