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xeter born and bred, Steve Bennett trained at RADA and began his professional career at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter – he’s back there again this Christmas to reprise his regular role as the traditional panto dame. We rudely interrupted him while he was pulling on his bloomers to ask him a few questions… Whereabouts in Exeter do you live, and what makes it special? St Thomas. I was born and grew up there, leaving in the late 1970s to go to live in London and attend drama school (RADA). I love it here and it is fantastic to be back.

Tell us about Dick Whittington… Dick Whittington is one of the best three or four pantos, along with Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Mother Goose. I have co-written this year’s show (with Tony Lidington) and have played in it a few times now. I am always looking for new ways of approaching it, finding new elements, new ways of having fun with it. What’s Christmas Day like in your house? Chaos! I am very fortunate to be an old dad with young kids so Christmas is still exciting for me. It was always special as a child and now, with boys aged five and nine, it is a great atmosphere in our house. It is especially wonderful for me having been away from home for so many years. Do you dress up smart or slob around in your PJs? We dress up a bit actually. I wouldn’t go as far as a tie but I will put on a nice Christmas jumper. Looking smart on the day is a tradition that goes back to my childhood. What have you asked Father Christmas for this year? Magic books! I have got loads already and have absolutely loved magic for donkey’s years and am actually thinking about putting on a magic show. My thing is mentalism – mind-reading tricks. I do them with the kids. My son Harry, who is nine, is already a fantastic magician and has won a school talent contest.

STEVE BENNETT It wouldn’t be an Exeter Christmas without this panto legend How would your nearest and dearest describe you? Trying but loveable. The former would be my family’s opinion; the latter mine. When did you last cry? Watching Children in Need about a young girl who lost her life to cancer. There is something heartbreaking about children who don’t get a chance in life. Sorry, you did ask.

If you had a time machine, which era would you return to and why? I would go back to the 1970s when I was a kid. I had an idyllic childhood; we didn’t have to worry about computers, mobile phones and social media. Life was great then and you could go out and play all day without a care in the world.

What piece of music would you put on at the end of a trying day? Elvis; I have loved him forever. Probably something like You Were Always On My Mind.

Who’s your celebrity crush? Victoria Coren Mitchell.

What issue, more than any other, makes you want to get up on a soapbox? I get furious about social injustice in this country. It makes me angry the way the poor are treated. Who would play you in a film about your life? In my dreams it would be a leather-clad young Elvis, but in reality it would be someone short, fat and bald. 90 I EXETER LIVING I

What single thing would make Exeter better? As a local boy I think Exeter is absolutely fine just as it is.

Got any New Year’s Resolutions? Lose weight!

Dick Whittington is at Exeter’s Northcott Theatre until 7 January

Profile for MediaClash

Exeter Living – Issue 220  

Exeter Living – Issue 220