From dad to dame - 34-year-old prepares for Nurse Nellie role at Beccles pantomime
At first glance Daniel Hanton is a typical dad of one who spends his days working as a graphic designer.
But add a generous application of electric blue eyeshadow, big bloomers and an outrageous frock, and he transforms into a very recognisable character.
The 34-year-old from Bradwell has been cast by Spark Live Pantomimes as the Beccles pantomime dame, which this year is Robin Hood’s delectable Nurse Nellie.
His varied theatre career has included hosting Sunday Night Live at the London Palladium, summer theatre and playing some of the most celebrated pantomime villains.
However it is the great community spirit that has attracted Mr Hanton back to Beccles for the second year running after a successful outing in 2016 as Widow Twankey.
Despite taking parts in high school productions it wasn’t until 2008 that his stage career took off.
He said: “It happened by accident really. A friend of mine, Gavin Dean, was part of a production company with the late Steve Ace, who was fantastic at playing a pantomime dame, and they needed a stage manager. It ignited my love of panto and raised my enthusiasm for theatre again.
“They were doing some shows and they needed to cast a villain for Jack and the Beanstalk and it went from there. I began working with Gavin Dean on joint productions in Great Yarmouth and with Steve Ace in Bungay, in shows like Robin Hood, Dick Whittington and Aladdin, all as a villain.
“I love doing panto. It’s not a normal show, it isn’t a play and it’s often the first time that children in this country are introduced to theatre. It’s great because we are part of a family’s Christmas tradition and it’s something we need to keep embracing.”
With rehearsals well under way and with four new cast members on-board this year, Mr Hanton is enjoying the build-up to the beginning of the seasonal run on December 22.
“You tend to see the cast more than you do your own family and after it is all over you do get a bit of panto blues,” he said.
“Spark Live are a new, fresh production company. The script this year is packed full of comedy and we all really bounce off each other.
“I do worry about my wig falling off and the dresses are very heavy, but the dame always gets the best jokes, outrageous costumes - and of course when I leave the theatre no-one knows who I am.
“Steve Ace really influenced me. He sadly died five years ago, but he could make his whole cast laugh, his timing was perfect and he was a true gent. John Inman was one of the best panto dames in the country, and my other favourite is Richard Gauntlett as he always plays a traditional dame and that is my preferred method.”
Mr Hanton studied animation at university and is an illustrator, as well as a graphic designer. He is also a children’s entertainer, semi-professional Punch and Judy man and most importantly daddy to his young daughter.
“She’s three now and is so excited to see me,” he said. “Last year all I could hear when I got on stage was ‘daddy!’ She loves the singing and this year I’m doing her favourite Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
“People can expect lots of silly routines and lots of audience participation. There will be water involved, squirty cream and be warned, Nurse Nellie is looking for a man - she’s single and on the prowl!”
Robin Hood runs for 12 performances at Beccles Public Hall.
Tickets are £10 for children and £12 for adults, with concessions at £11 and a ticket for a family of four at £40.
They are on sale at the Public Hall box office, open from 10am until 3pm Monday to Saturday, by calling 01502 770060 or visiting www.becclespublichall.org.uk