ACTOR Antony Stuart-Hicks, 36, has donned a frock, wig and fake eyelashes every Christmas since the age of 11, taking to the stage as the famous pantomime dame.

This Christmas, for the first time in 25 years, his costume will remain in the wardrobe.

Of all industries, the coronavirus pandemic has perhaps hit creative arts the hardest.

“Since I was 11, I have done pantomime,” said Antony, who has been the resident pantomime dame at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre for six years.

“This is the first year I will actually have a full Christmas at home, usually it’s just one day off.

“But I am looking forward to it, there is no point sitting here being devastated about it.

“Like many things at the moment, it is beyond our control, so it is about what I can use my energy and time for.”

Antony worked on stage from a young age, jumping straight into a UK tour after his A-Levels.

Originally from Liverpool, he worked the club scene as a singer and stand-up comic – skills which transfer easily to the revered role of panto dame.

Although he quit full-time acting in 2012 to focus on his theatre production business, the panto was the “one thing he never wanted to give up”.

“Once you’ve worn a frock you just can’t get out of it,” he laughs.

“It’s the one thing I’ve always done that brings together the skill set I have.

“I’ve stuck with it and it’s the one thing that’s never let me down.

“People come and go, life changes, where you live changes, but it has always provided me with what I need – an audience, a platform to entertain people, an avenue to escape life.


“I am passionate about the pantomime being for families, not just children.

“Children aren’t the ones buying the tickets, the adults are.

“I am a lot more acidic with my comedy, I am more for the adults to enjoy in many respects.

“Every year is a challenge as you’ve got to be funny and you’ve got to be funny in a different way than the last.

“Most of the act is all about observational comedy, and a lot of the time I really don’t know what I am going to say when I get on the stage.”

He added: “You get addicted to laughter. With my role I have to listen, I have to conduct, if one part of the audience isn’t feeling it you try and use the laughter from the other side of the room to get it across.”

Antony wants to use his time and his company to provide a platform for those in the creative arts in Essex, many of whom are going through a tough time due to coronavirus lockdown.


APL Theatre’s forthcoming online digital festival Voice Box welcomes submissions from Essex writers, actors, singers, dancers, musicians, songwriters, artists and puppeteers.

The festival will spotlight talent across five consecutive evenings, beginning on Monday November 9 at 7pm.

Producers plan to create nightly episodes spanning 25 to 30 minutes, presenting them online.

Applications are open until midnight on October 12 and are open to all regardless of age or experience.

Applicants can email their content, which can encompass anything from theatre, radio, children’s shows, dance, poetry, spoken word, animation, films or cabaret.

Submissions can be sent via email to

Antony said: “It is essential we preserve our creative arts.

“Theatre and the arts are a massive part of our culture, heritage and economy.

“It provides so much money to the Exchequer every year, but is being forgotten about really.

“It allows people a sense of escapism, which is something I think we all need at the moment.

“However, I wanted to be practical, creative and continue to promote talent as and when possible and my company, based in the West End will be collaborating with Essex-based creatives At Swefn’s Edge on a digital theatre season.”