There is nothing like playing a dame, according to Craig Ansell who has just come off stage in pantomime with comedian Jimmy Cricket and Emmerdale’s actor Kurtis Stacey.
Craig, from Park Lane, Kidderminster, landed his first professional and coveted role as Sarah the Cook in a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at The Forum in Billingham, Teesside, which ran for a month, from December 6 to January 6. Such was his success that Craig was immediately booked to play the dame Widow Twankey in the pantomime Aladdin later this year at the same theatre.
That show is expected to feature a current pop star, but no names have so far been released.
Craig, aged 41, who by day is a medical photographer who helps screen diabetic patients for retinopathy, associated with blindness, and whose main base is at Kidderminster Hospital, has no formal performing arts qualifications. but said he had “always wanted to be on the stage”.
Born in Leicester he came to live in Kidderminster seven years ago and has spent weekends playing a female entertainer, his alter ego Cherry Darling, across the country, and most regularly in Bournemouth.
He said: “I performed in stage productions at school and in amateur dramatics as well as taking roles as Marlene Dietrich, playing cameo roles as part of a show of sirens of the silver screen in Spain. I have put on a lot of weight since then, though.
“More recently I have performed at a ladies’ night in Kidderminster and am due to perform at the NU Bar in Kidderminster on March 7.”
Craig set himself a goal a year ago to try to gain a professional role.
He said: “I sent mail shots to pantomime producers and eventually managed to be taken on.
“I had my own costumes made up by professional costumiers and the wigs alone cost about £300 each and the eight frocks for the part of Sarah the Cook cost £3,000. It was my first professional role and a little scary.
“Recently Gok Wan told in a television documentary of his fears at performing in pantomime.
“I had the same fears of appearing with professionals and of not being able to meet their standards.
“We only had a week of rehearsals and I really doubted myself. Fortunately the actors Jimmy Cricket and Kurtis Stacey were very helpful.
“I read through the script and thought how will I play this part. I just love performing and would have dearly liked to have gone to stage school.
“I suppose my ambitions is to eventually play Mother Goose. The dame provides the comedy element to a pantomime and it is in many respects the most traditional part. I think that is is important that these traditions are kept alive. In Shakespeare’s days women’s roles were played by men.
“It is a traditional role and should carry on. Sarah the Cook is not a usual part of Snow White as it is a fairytale.
“Funnily enough there were never any scenes in the kitchen.
“There was one day when a large school arrived and we could not even hear the dialogue for the scream and shouts from the youngsters. The atmosphere was electric and the children were out of their seats.
“I am very fortunate to have been booked already for another production as there are a lot of actors out of work.
“It just goes to show that with belief and determination you can achieve anything.”