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EastEnders star Samantha Womack is starring in Jack and the Beanstalk at Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre

Samantha Womack
Samantha Womack

EastEnders star Samantha Womack has swapped the dark streets of Albert Square for the glitter-coated world of panto at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre. She chatted to Kathryn Tye about playing the fairy in this year’s show.

Make-up free and dressed for the school run, there is only one clue to Samantha Womack’s magical alter ego – her glittery pale green nail varnish.

The actress is playing Fairy Sugar Snap in this year’s pantomime at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, Jack and the Beanstalk.

And she has been getting into the role with the help of a nail salon in the city.

Chatting during a break in rehearsals, Samantha admits that she isn’t normally a ‘girlie girl’, however, and was delighted to find her character was more of your ‘down-to-earth’ magical creature.

She says: “Fairy Sugar Snap is a good vegetable fairy, so not too glamorous. We thought organic when we were putting her costume together, with greens rather than pinks.”

In 1999 the 41-year-old starred as Cinderella in the ITV pantomime, alongside top names including Frank Skinner and Paul Merton, but this is her first time in a live production.

She says: “I had a great time doing Cinderella, and when this part came up it was a fantastic excuse to go back and do a job that makes you smile. It is a feel good show for us as well as the audience.”

The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk
The cast of Jack and the Beanstalk

One of the reasons Samantha chose this particular show, was its creative team, Eastry-based husband and wife team Paul Hendy and Emily Wood, aka Evolution Productions.

She says: “They have a traditional approach to pantomime, and care about the product. And, of course, when I read in the script about the Dame doing the Miley Cyrus song Wrecking Ball, I thought I have to do this!”

Samantha Womack
Samantha Womack

Her fellow cast members include Phil Gallagher, aka CBeebies’ Mister Maker, as Jack’s brother Billy, Canterbury actor Ben Roddy as Dame Trott and Thanet comedian Lloyd Hollett as comedic baddie Dr Fleshcreep.

She says: “They are a lovely bunch of people and we are having a great time rehearsing, although it is hard work! There are musical numbers, gags, lots of scenery changes. Everything has to be finely tuned.”

And the hard work is set to continue, with the cast signed up for eight shows a week until January, only taking Christmas Day off.

The hectic pace is something that Samantha is used to, however, as a veteran West End performer, starring in plays and musicals including South Pacific and Guys and Dolls.

She also recently went back to play Ronnie Mitchell in BBC soap EastEnders after a three year break, which she describes as ‘one of the hardest jobs in the world’.

“It’s not just the hours spent on set, it is the fact there is so little time to prepare and rehearse. I always say that soap actors are the hardest working in the business.

“But I love playing the character, and the cast and crew are like family.”

And family is very important to the mum-of-two, whose eight-year-old daughter Lily is staying with her at a rented cottage in Canterbury during the run.

Samantha Womack
Samantha Womack

Samantha laughs: “She will be my glitter assistant! Luckily her school gives her the freedom to come with me. Both she and my son Ben, who is 12, have toured with me. I really like involving them.

“As Ben is older, he is staying at home with his dad, but all three of them will be in the audience for opening night, which will be lovely.”

Due to Samantha’s busy schedule, the family will also be spending Christmas Day in the city.

She says: “It will be the first time in ages that I’m not doing a massive meal for loads of people.

"It will just be the four of us, even our three dogs and two hamsters are being left at home.

"But I am really looking forward to it - I think Canterbury will be a magical place to spend Christmas.”

Jack and the Beanstalk will be at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre from Friday, November 29, to Sunday, January 12. Tickets from £11. Call 01227 787787.

Click here to read our review of the show

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