Children’s presenter, playwright and actor Cerrie Burnell was born without a lower right arm, but proudly refuses to hide her disability and will be taking to the stage in Maidstone this Christmas. Angela Cole spoke to her.
Keith Jack and Cerrie Burnell
She may be facing 66 performances in 31 days, but CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell says appearing in panto will be more like putting her feet up.
The 34-year-old, who is in Dick Whittington at Maidstone’s Hazlitt Theatre, has been appearing in her one-woman show, launching her picture book, and doing all her TV work for the past few months.
She’s also mum to five-year-old Amelie, who accompanies her on her travels.
“She loves a good villain,” laughs Cerrie. “The Wicked Queen will probably be her favourite character.”
When Cerrie started presenting the BBC’s CBeebies, she faced a storm of controversy as parents felt her appearance – she was born with a right arm that ended just below the elbow – was upsetting for youngsters.
Although keen to move on from that episode, her disability has inspired her to write the one-woman show In the Magical Playroom, which had its premiere at the Edinburgh Festival this summer.
The cast of Dick Whittington
She collaborated on the project with Rainham composer Bill McGruddy.
It tells the story of a young girl who hates wearing a prosthetic arm, just as she did.
Cerrie says: “I was made to wear one. I always had a strong instinct not to wear it, from the age of two. It’s not autobiographical, though. It is more about inclusion than anything else, and challenging parental authority.”
Cerrie’s picture book adds to an impressive CV, and pantomime has given her the chance to display other talents.
“It is lovely to get the opportunity to sing,” she says. “It is such a positive and happy thing to do.”
Dick Whittington is at the Hazlitt Theatre from December 6 to January 5. For tickets, from £14.50 for children and £15.50 for adults, call 01622 758611.