SUCH was the impact of his Grand Opera House pantomime debut as Widow Twankey in Aladdin last Christmas that producers Three Bears Productions have created a "dame's role" specially for him in Beauty And The Beast.

He joins the likes of Strictly Come Dancing's Debbie McGee, Blue singer Antony Costa, Home And Away soap star Lynne McGranger, RolyPolys' dancer Audrey Laybourne and co-producer Stuart Wade in Chris Moreno's second panto after last year's changing of the panto guard.

Steve was Chris Wickenden when The Press first met him in 2016, but he is now sallying forth on dame duty as Steve. "It turns out there's another actor in Equity called Chris Wickenden, who I know quite well now as we're in a similar casting bracket, so 'goodbye Chris, hello Steve'! Good luck to the other Chris; he's a lovely guy."

Steve has been playing dame for "five or six years now, up and down the country, in lots of different places", as is the way in the world of panto. Last year was another addition to each new experience, but the South East Londoner's York debut could not have gone better.

"Beforehand, I'm always nervous because the dame's part is so integral to the show and you're willing the audience to be on your side, but when you come to the Grand Opera House, fortunately they're very open with you. The York audience really want to be with you, and from very early on, I thought, 'I'm going to enjoy this. If they enjoy it, I will too', which is a wonderful feeling."

York Press:

"I'm the younger and much prettier sister of Belle," says dame Steve Wickenden on his new "ugly" role as Misrabelle in Beauty And The Beast

He played Widow Twankey as a southerner in a northern show. "For me, it's about being true to your character," says Steve. "For many dames, it's about being an extension of yourself, so there's no point in hiding where you're from. That's why I milk being a southerner, with a rough, gruff London accent, which makes you this bizarre creature as you're clearly a man in a dress, and there's no attempt to hide that either. You just emphasise that by using different quirks of your character, while staying true to who you are."

After playing one of pantomime's most familiar characters, Widow Twankey, in Aladdin, Steve will be breaking in an entirely new one in Beauty And The Beast. "There's Belle and now there's Misrabelle too! I'm the younger and much prettier sister of Belle, and what's wonderful about this is it's clearly the 'Ugly Sister' role, but when you play Ugly Sister in Cinderella, you have to share the limelight with the other Ugly Sister, whereas I can have the solo spotlight!" he says.

"So while Misrabelle is not the primary villain, as we have Lynne McGranger in that role, Misrabelle is clearly going to get up to a lot of nonsense, which will be great fun to play."

Three Bears Productions' Beauty And The Beast will run at Grand Opera House, York, from December 15 to January 7. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at