We chat to EastEnders star, actor Lucy Benjamin who stars as Cinderella’s Wicked Step Mum in the Yvonne Arnaud’s pantomime this year.
Hello Lucy! What’s your first memory of pantomime?
“My first memory of panto, is back when I was five or maybe six when my Grandma took me to Camberley to see Jim Davidson playing Buttons in Cinderella. I even remember getting a merchandise pen! This was a bloomin’ long time ago!”
Q. What are your earliest memories of TV and what’s your favourite soap nowadays?
“I remember watching Bagpuss, Mr Benn, Camberwick Green and Trumpton; I was an avid TV watcher even from a very early age. My fave soap is currently EastEnders because I’ve just been back on the square and got right back into watching it.”
Q. Who was your hero growing up? And now?
“My mum was my hero growing up and still is now. Mums are the best!”
Q. How do you feel about this production of Cinderella?
“I’m delighted to be playing The Wicked Step Mum in Cinderella this year and stepping into the Uglies’ shoes, as there’s nothing more fulfilling than to be playing a baddie, when I’ve spent a lot of my panto years being the goodie. Bring it on!”
Q. Who is the ‘baddest’ pantomime and soap villain of all time?
“I remember performing alongside Kate Omara in Dick Whittington in Dartford one year and realising that it was probably one of the best and sexiest panto villains I’d ever seen. My favourite soap baddie has to be Dirty Den in EastEnders… Phil Mitchell can give him a run for his money though too!”
Q. What is the weirdest or most touching piece of fanmail you have received?
“The weirdest fan thing that’s ever happened to me was that a woman once turned up at stage door at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton during panto season and proceeded to show me a tattoo she’d had done on her thigh of my face! I think she went on to truly regret it, as you would.”
Q. Do you love Christmas and what does the festive season look like in your household?
“I love the Christmas holidays and all the food and drink that goes with being with the family over an extended time. Although I do find cooking Christmas dinner very stressful.”
Q. What’s your favourite piece of music and who’s your favourite singer?
“My favourite artist at the moment is Labi Siffre and the track Lying, Laughing, Loving, Crying.”
Q. What is your favourite book?
“My favourite book as a child was always The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, which ignited my love of reading for the rest of my life!”
Q. What do you most love about Berkshire & Bucks and how was it as a place to grow up?
“I went to Redroofs Theatre School in Maidenhead from the age of nine to 17, so have very fond memories of spending many of my formative years in Berkshire. I was also born in Reading, so I have a very local connection.”
Q. How about Surrey – will you and the cast & crew go out in Guildford during the production run?
“I’m sure there will be a little bit of socialising with the cast and crew during the panto run, but trust me, doing two shows a day is no mean feat!”
Q. What advice would you have for any youngsters who are interested in acting?
“My advice to any youngsters wanting to go into acting is to pursue your dreams, but always make sure you have an education to fall back on in order to give you as many strings to your bow as possible if things don’t work out. It’s a tough old business.”
Q. Finally, if you could make one wish for the world, what would it be?
“I’m no Greta Thunberg, so my best (cheesy) answer to this question, is for everyone that can or is able to, to come and see our fabulous panto at the Yvonne Arnaud this year and make the most of the festive period! You won’t be disappointed!
You’re all invited to the ball! Cinderella, 2nd December to 7th January: book your tickets at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.