From lifting the glitterball trophy with now-girlfriend Stacey Dooley to starring in musicals such as Rock of Ages and Singin’ in the Rain, former Strictly pro Kevin Clifton has left a glittering career in his wake.
“I’ve never done panto, which is weird because panto is such a staple of theatre,” says the Strictly champion. “I’ve seen my sister in a few pantos and she loves it. She’s done Canterbury before and when I said I’d been asked to do panto and told her it was the Canterbury one, she said ‘You’ve got to do it! You’ll love it, Canterbury’s one of the best ones in the country.’ So I’m really excited to be a part of it.”
Kevin’s sister Joanne Clifton, who also competed in the TV dance contest and won with partner Ore Oduba, starred in Jack in the Beanstalk at the Marlowe in 2021.
However, despite his sister’s glowing recommendation of the city, the 41-year-old actor initially had plans to take some time off over Christmas.
“I was going to take a break for the rest of the year,” he says. “Since we came out of Covid I’ve done so many shows back-to-back and then, at the beginning of the year, me and my girlfriend Stacey had a baby. So I said, right, as soon as we finish in July I’m not going to take any more work until after Christmas.”
“But the thing is, right now my daughter Minnie is too young to understand what Christmas is but, in a few years, I might just want to spend Christmas with her and not be on stage all the time. So if there’s a time to do panto, now’s probably the best time to do it.”
Kevin and documentary maker Stacey Dooley met during the 2018 series of Strictly Come Dancing.
Together they won the show and, soon after, the pair announced their off-screen romantic relationship.
The couple, who live together in London, welcomed their first child, Minnie, in January this year.
“Stacey had never seen a panto up until a couple of years ago and she absolutely loved it,” laughs the theatre star. “She was buzzing! And now she’s telling all her friends, ‘Kevin’s in a panto!’ and when I was asked to do it she was like, babe, get your tights on, I want to come and see this.”
Kevin reveals that the three of them will be staying near the theatre during his panto run and are fully expecting to get into the Christmas spirit with Kent’s festive markets and decorations.
“Me and Stacey are going to bring Minnie and we’re going to stay there for the six weeks,” he says. “Canterbury is a nice area to do that in - I’m not going to name names but there’s a few places where you wouldn’t want to be for six weeks!
“But if you’re going to be somewhere at Christmas for six weeks, Canterbury’s not a bad shout. It’ll be nice for us to have Christmas there as a family, and the Marlowe’s a nice theatre as well so being there for six weeks will be good.”
However, for his panto debut the actor - who has visited the Marlowe before in shows such as Strictly Ballroom and Rock of Ages - is dropping his trademark boy-next-door charm for the villainous role of Ivan.
“I love doing things that people don’t expect me to do,” he admits. “I’m really into taking roles that people don’t expect of me, I don’t want to just do the obvious thing all the time. For the last year I’ve been on stage in Strictly Ballroom, playing a ballroom dancer, so I need to do something completely different and a villain in Aladdin is perfect.”
But will he be able to take the boos and hisses on the chin with his first ‘baddie’ character?
“I can’t wait - the louder they can boo me, the better!” he says, grinning mischievously. “I’m looking forward to being able to play with the audience and getting them to boo as much as I can.
“I think I’m in good hands, some of the cast are experienced panto veterans so as much as I’m looking forward to performing alongside them and playing with the audience, I’m also looking forward to learning from them.”
Although Kevin hung up his dancing shoes in 2019 after competing in his final Strictly series with Anneka Rice, he is still known for creating show-stopping routines.
It’s not surprising, in that case, that fans are still expecting to see some moves from the four-time British Latin Champion during his panto run.
“We can’t not do it,” laughs Kevin. “It’s funny because since 2019 everything’s been about theatre and acting roles but Stacey laughs at me because whenever we meet someone new and they ask me what I do, I always say I’m an actor, and she goes, ‘Why don’t you just say you’re a dancer?!’”
“But I’m fully aware that once we go into this panto there’s no way I’m not going to be dancing.
“If I’m going to a panto and there’s someone from Strictly Come Dancing in it, I’d feel cheated if they didn’t do a bit of dancing!”
Aladdin will be at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury from Friday, November 24 to Sunday, January 7. You can book tickets online here.
You can also book tickets by calling 01227 787787.