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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Aladdin: Justin Fletcher plays Nana Knickerbocker Twanky

Justin Fletcher as Nana Knickerbocker Twanky

CBeebies' legend and Bafta-winner Justin Fletcher pulls his popular Gigglebiz character Nana Knickerbocker out from the wings and right into centre stage in Aladdin. Here he explains why there's nothing like a Dame...

What can viewers expect from this year's panto?

Well we've got a huge cast this year. I think there's about 15 people – and animals of course – Nuzzle and Scratch are making an appearance – so literally we have most of the CBeebies celebrities this year. It's very exciting.

What do you love most about pantomime?

Panto is great because quite often it's a child's first theatrical experience. And also we're very much studio-based for the rest of the year so it's quite nice to be out and involved with the audience and the people that are watching CBeebies. Also children don't have any inhibitions at this age – they just go for it – and it's such a buzz to ride on that adrenaline wave of the kids having a ball.

Can you tell us about your costume?

It's very bright and flamboyant and it's certainly not understated in any way! But that's Nana Knickerbocker. We had a survey of children when we visited schools for the new series of Gigglebiz and Nana Knickerbocker was the most popular character. She's a classic pantomime dame, she's larger than life and kids love her!

What is your first panto memory?

My first memory was seeing Snow White at the Hexagon Theatre in Reading which is ironic as I'm appearing there in Sleeping Beauty this year. And it starred Stu Francis is in his "ooh I could crush a grape" phase so it was very memorable for me!

Can you explain the magic appeal of panto?

I think it's basically the storyline. If you've got a good story, it's a fairytale and kids are completely pulled into the story from the opening when the fairy godmother gives you the prologue. If you've got a lovely story and beautiful sets you can't lose. And it's the one thing the whole family can enjoy together from a child of one up to gran and grandad.

What are you doing for Christmas?

I'm going to be in panto at the Hexagon Theatre in Reading playing Josh the Jester.

What is your best or worst Christmas present?

The worst one I ever gave was to my sister; it was a rocking chair that I'd made out of pegs! I glued it all together but it fell apart when I gave it to her so she just received a bundle of broken pegs!

And the worst present I received was from another sister who gave me a plasticine "hug" – little characters with two eyes on them. But she put it by a heater so when I received it, it was just a blob of plasticine!

What are you getting for Christmas this year?

I've already had a Christmas present – Phil (Mister Maker) bought me a Back To The Future box set – how cool is that! And my five-year-old niece Lara asked me if I wanted an iPod and I said "Gosh, do you know what that is?" and she said "No"! She'd just heard someone else talking about it!

What's the best thing about Christmas?

This is going to be the first time I've been at home for 10 years! To be at my actual home, with family visiting, is going to be absolutely wonderful.

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