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Canterbury: Maidstone actor Shaun Williamson, Barry from EastEnders, stars in Peter Pan, opening at the Marlowe Theatre

By Angela Cole

The first panto flourish in the county this Christmas comes in the swashbuckling shape of Peter Pan at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre, which opens on Friday, November 24, headed by former EastEnder and Extras star Shaun Williamson as Captain Hook.

Here, he talks being a baddie, being famous and being serious about panto as he prepares for curtain up in Canterbury.

Shaun Williamson as Captain Hook Picture: Paul Amos
Shaun Williamson as Captain Hook Picture: Paul Amos

It’s 13 years since Maidstone actor Shaun Williamson’s character Barry Evans died at the hands of cruel Janine in EastEnders, yet it’s still not uncommon for people to know him as Barry rather than Shaun.

So does he secretly want to throttle Barry himself sometimes as a result?

“I always know what he has given me,” he says. “I just don’t know what he has cost me! You know when you take on a role like that that you might be typecast. But we did get 20m viewers for that episode, when we would normally have got 15m, so it is quite incredible.”

Today’s fans, however, don’t just know him as Barry. A whole new legion know him from Ricky Gervais’s Extras – something which makes Shaun very happy, not forgetting Celebrity Big Brother. “If they’re over 30, they’ll know Barry, if they’re under 30, they won’t know him, but they’ll know me from Extras, which is great,” he says.

Despite those roles, he is relishing the chance to show his inner baddie as Captain Hook in Peter Pan at the Marlowe – and keen to demonstrate some of his very loud pirate roars.

Shaun and Lloyd Hollett share a joke at rehearsals for Peter Pan Picture: Paul Amos
Shaun and Lloyd Hollett share a joke at rehearsals for Peter Pan Picture: Paul Amos

“Being a baddie is so much more fun," he says. "It is my second year as Hook (he played the role in Crawley last year). It’s really good fun. My Hook is dastardly and very loyal to the Disney film character – that’s most children’s experience of him, so it makes sense. You have to feel a bit sorry for him though – all he wants really is a mummy. So he may even get a few “aahs”.”

Shaun went to St Simon Stock RC School in Maidstone and still lives near the town he grew up in. It means the Marlowe show is a home gig for him, and he will be commuting to the theatre from home, except for one week where he will rent a house near Canterbury to avoid getting stuck in traffic – something many of us living in Kent can sympathise with. It may be panto, but it’s a serious business too.

“We do a full-blown musical in the space of a few weeks. It’s a lot to get done. If you’ve done a few pantos you know you’ve got to get on with it. Now I’m getting older I have to start by knowing my lines. There’s no way I can get away without knowing them first. And I don’t want the added stress of worrying about getting stuck in traffic.”

Shaun Williamson as Captain Hook crosses swords with Milkshake's David Ribi as Peter Pan Picture: Paul Amos
Shaun Williamson as Captain Hook crosses swords with Milkshake's David Ribi as Peter Pan Picture: Paul Amos

Of his fellow cast members, he jokes: “We have three children’s TV presenters – they are all young and beautiful and I hate them all!”

But he has met some of his fellow stars, having performed at the Marlowe before in two pantos, comedian Dave Lee’s shows and in the plays One Man, Two Guvnors and Out of Order. “It’s like I’ve never been away!” he says.

Find a panto near you in Kent


The cast of Peter Pan includes Coronation Street’s Wendi Peters and CBeebies’ Swashbuckle star Gemma Hunt. Shaun will star as baddie Captain Hook while Wendi takes on the roles of Mrs Darling, Mia the Mermaid and Big Chief Squatting Cow.

The cast of Peter Pan at The Marlowe Theatre
The cast of Peter Pan at The Marlowe Theatre

Gemma plays Tiger Lily, while local panto favourite Ben Roddy plays Mrs Smee, while Lloyd Hollett is Starkey. David Ribi, who has just been cast as the main presenter on Channel 5’s Milkshake, will play Peter Pan, while Samantha Dorrance – the female lead in CBeebies’ The Tale of Mister Tumble – is Wendy and Jo Osmond, from Dr Who and Maleficent, plays Tinkerbell.

The show is again in partnership with Evolution Pantomimes, run by Paul Hendy and Emily Wood in Kent, and is sponsored by Lipscomb Volvo and Whitefriars.

Peter Pan is at the Marlowe from Friday, November 24 to Sunday, January 14. For tickets call 01227 787787, or go to marlowetheatre.com.

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