It’s difficult not to be inspired by Ann Widdecombe, whose career spans from Maidstone and Weald MP, novelist, dancer and now pantomime star. Having turned down the opportunity to star in the West-End Musical Grease, “because of the Strictly tour – they clashed”, Ann is preparing for her stage-debut opposite Craig Revel Horwood in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs this Christmas at The Orchard, Dartford.
Ann says, “I’m delighted that the first panto I’m ever doing is in Kent. It will mean a lot of friends will want to come along.” And it’s not just Ann’s friends who are excited about her leading role as ‘Widdy in Waiting’ – tickets are flying out the box office.
Chrismas has always been busy for Ann. “Apart from last year, which was the first Christmas of my retirement as an MP, I spent every single Christmas in Maidstone going around the hospitals as well as visiting personnel in the fire, police and ambulance services.”
Her various careers all lend themselves to one another – the theatricality of Westminster, with the jeering of each other’s political opinions, Ann hopes will enable her to throw her voice. And though none of her celebrity friends have offered advice about performing on stage yet, she is convinced she’ll be getting some tips.
Having been misquoted in the media as saying she had no interest in a showbiz career, Ann is quick to set the record straight. “I probably said Strictly was a one off, because I genuinely thought it was. But, I never said I wouldn’t do showbiz. And if I had said that, I wouldn’t have done the Strictly tour.”
The Orchard are thrilled that Ann has not ruled out a career in showbusiness. Audiences this Christmas will love Ann and her fantastic personality – and fans of Anns’ Strictly performance won’t be disappointed either, “Craig and I are going to do a hilarious dance routine in the middle of it.”
Performing alongside her new friend, Craig Revel Horwood, is something she never would have anticipated when starting the Strictly TV series. “We’ve been dancing on the Strictly tour. At first, I was decieved by his screen persona but, in fact, he’s not a bit like that, he’s a huge pussy cat!”
Never-the-less, Dick Whittington this isn’t and Craig’s newly dubbed pussy cat status will remain safely guarded by his performance as the Wicked Queen. This is his third year working with Qdos Entertainment, though the introduction of Ann’s ‘Widdy in Waiting’ will bring a fresh edge to his outstanding performance in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
In terms of life after pantomime, Ann’s keeping things open. “Whatever comes along,” she says, “I’d be quite at home if Spielberg rings.”
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford, from Friday 9 to Saturday 31 December 2011. For more information, please visit www.orchardtheatre.co.uk