THIS year’s pantomime at the Ropetackle Arts Centre has been a hometown gig for Carol Cleveland, known to millions as ‘the seventh Python’.
Carol, who loved every second of her O2 arena reunion with her old Monty Python mates in July, is playing the wicked queen in LP Creatives’ production of Sleeping Beauty until Wednesday, at the venue that is just a few minutes’ walk from where she lives in Shoreham.
“I lived in Brighton for 32 years, but I moved to Shoreham just over two years ago,” she said.
“There I was, a single woman of a certain age – and I up-sized! I had lived in a lovely little cottage in Brighton for a long time, and I just needed more space.
“Hanover is a very busy area, and I was a desperate for a garage and a front garden and more space just to breathe. I was not going to be able to get anything like that in that part of Brighton, and so very reluctantly I left Brighton and moved a few miles along the coast.
“But actually, Shoreham is lovely. I made the move at exactly the right time in my life. I just wanted a bit more peace and quiet.”
But peace and quiet only in her private life, Carol is quick to stress. In other respects, she’s delighted at the way things are moving, professionally.
“I am delighted to be back doing panto. I have done lots of panto in the past. I used to do it every year. I got into a run of panto. In the days when I had the legs for it, I used to be the principal boy, but principal boys are not particularly rewarding to play. They are just there for the daddies.
“After that, I moved on to play the fairies, which I loved because there is so much more that you can do with them. I made my fairies a bit forgetful and a bit ditzy, but now finally I am playing wicked, which I loved, which I always wanted to do. You can really put yourself into it.
“I have played wicked several times now. My favourite was the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz. I loved doing that. But this is a panto I have never done before. I have never done Sleeping Beauty before.”
In fact, she hasn’t done panto for a while: “It suddenly seemed that the production companies stopped wanting RADA-trained actresses. They just wanted reality stars. Unless you have just come out of the jungle or Big Brother, they just didn’t want to know.
“I think I have just been lucky with this company. They didn’t want a reality star. They wanted a stage star! And I am so lucky. It is just 15 minutes from my house. I can go home between shows.”
It’s all coming together nicely for Carol. She’s got another feature film role coming up in the new year on the back of one she did last year: “I am getting back into film; I am getting back into TV; and I am finally playing my age, lovely character roles, which is great.
“And it was really lovely to do the Monty Python shows. Hopefully, lots and lots of job offers will be coming my way!”
Carol has also become a published author, bringing out her memoir PomPoms Up! From Puberty to Python and Beyond earlier this year, commissioned with the O2 reunion in mind, which really put the pressure on to write it in time.
“About a third of the book is devoted to Python.”