PARENTS of pre-school aged children already know this to be true: Justin Fletcher is something special.
The voice of Shaun the Sheep, the man behind Arthur Sleep on Gigglebitz and, of course, adored as Mr Tumble, the Cbeebies megastar is one of the busiest men in showbiz – and nicest too.
He’s currently knee-deep in custard pies and colourful costumes thanks to rehearsals of this year’s Hexagon pantomime, Cinderella.
It’s packed with gags, witty scenes and moving songs … and this year he can’t complain about the script, as he’s written it. It’s his first.
The show sees him star as Buttons, Cinderella’s best friend.
His partner in crime, Paul Morse, is joining the cast – not as one of the ugly sisters, but as Nanny Cuddles.
In fact this show, produced by Imagine Theatre, is different in that two women have been cast in the sisters role. Emma Jane Wylde and Kate Eaves will need a fair amount of make-up to toxify themselves as Cinders’ nemesis.
The show opens at The Hexagon on Saturday, December 7 and will run into the new year.
For dame Paul, returning is exciting. We met him on the second day of their rehearsals, which had been going at quite a fair lick: they were already figuring out the ending of act one.
“This is my seventh year here, I can’t believe it,” he said. “It has gone very quickly, but I love coming to Reading. I love the audiences, they always come up for a laugh and a good time. It makes out job easier when they are on our side already.”
The biggest change this year is that Justin has turned author and for Paul this gives him a chance to improve and hone their already brilliant rapport together.
“I’m really happy, it’s a really good script this year,” he says. “Justin’s writing it for us, I think the audience will see a different panto than they are used to – lots of routines, lots of singing, lots of dancing and lots of comedy.
“It’s really current and it’s really fun.”
But there are some things that will stay the same.
“Justin and I have our traditional messy scene with all the custard pies,” he promises.
But then, Paul confides, “We have a new slapstick scene that we’re doing this year as well, which should be very funny.
“I’m not gonna tell you what it is, but it’s brand new. And it should be very good. We hope.”
Cinderella runs from Saturday, December 7 through to Saturday, January 5. Tickets cost from £15 and there are several special relaxed or signed performances during the run.
For more details, call the Reading Arts box office on 0118 960 6060 or log on to whatsonreading.com