CHRIS Clarkson has graduated to the prize role of the dame in his 11th pantomime, playing cash-strapped Dame Trott in Jack & The Beanstalk at Harrogate Theatre.

“This is my virgin dame and that feels odd – but in a good way! Normally I’ve been the comic, after being the Prince at first until those years faded,” says Chris, who has made the transition at 33, just as a certain Berwick Kaler switch from the dark side at 30 at York Theatre Royal after a decade as the villain.

“As the comic, I’d been used to doing the song sheet, doing the show all the way through, but not this time! And the other thing that’s been strange has been doing the cue line [the feed] or at least the opposite line to what I’d normally do, so it’s felt a little surreal but I’m settling in now.”

Jack & The Beanstalk sprang into life last Friday, directed by Phil Lowe, who has co-written the script with chief executive David Bown, and it was David who brought Chris to Yorkshire for his Harrogate Theatre pantomime debut.

“I worked with David at The Castle at Wellingborough 11 years ago in my first panto; he was the director and we’ve kept in touch ever since,” says Chris.

“The show was called The Ideal Gnome Expedition; I played a character called Wacker, the one who flattened the new Tarmac…”

Were you playing some sort of pneumatic drill? “No, a wacker isn’t a drill, it does the hand-held wacking!” says Chris, who also played the self-explanatory Securidog in David Wood’s play.

Last Christmas David Bown came to Stevenage to see Chris in comic mode as Potty Pierre in Beauty & The Beast at the Gordon Craig Theatre.

“He said lots of lovely gushing things, but then that is what you say in theatre!,” says Chris. David, nevertheless, meant what he said, and so when Chris asked him earlier this year what would be coming up at Harrogate, the chief executive told him “You’ll be getting a call from Phil Lowe”.

Chris arrived in Harrogate on October 29 to begin rehearsals and immediately felt at home in such a “stunning, traditional theatre”.

He has acclimatised to the dame’s role too. “Physically, my biggest problem to start with was standing still, as the comic tends to move around and dames stand still, so I told Phil Lowe to throw things at me if I moved around, so he did!” says Chris.

“Then I had to get used to wearing frocks and having boobs, but you can’t play it as a drag queen; you’re not playing a woman or pretending to be a woman, you’re a man playing a woman. You’re the dame – and the dame is a character in its own right that doesn’t appear in anything else.”

The next challenge was the dame’s make-up to go with frocks, often on a dairy or cow theme, designed by Richard Foxton and made by Nicola Dowling. “When I first started practising in September at home in Manchester, it took me 45 minutes, but I’ve got the make-up routine down to 20 now, which I’m really pleased about,” says Chris. “It’s the false eye lashes that take forever. I’ve got man fingers! It’s been an eye opener – well, apart from when I stuck my eyes together with glue.”

Playing dame is the latest string to Chris’s ever expanding bow as a stage and screen actor, close-up magician, voiceover artist, stilt walker, compere and presenter (you may have seen him guest-presenting BBC1’s The One Show).

He is the face or voice of many adverts too. He was the man holding the Ronseal tin for a couple of years, and if you remember the excitable chap bursting into changing rooms to shout “Hey buddy!” at guys going through their shaving routine with a new Gillette ProGlide, that was him.

“They were genuine, real people, who I interviewed for half an hour when they didn’t know the cameras were on them – and they didn’t get paid for the advert,” recalls Chris.

This year, he has done the fast-talking Tesco advert, something of a contrast to another of his skills as a living – and silent – statue. He was a world champion at this art form, or more precisely, he was the most popular statue among the 150, as voted for by the 250,000 attendance at the 2009 championship at Arnhem in the Netherlands, when representing Great Britain by invitation.

Who did Chris transform into a statue? Bond, James Bond – neither shaken, not stirred on this occasion.

Jack & The Beanstalk runs at Harrogate Theatre until Sunday, January 13. Box office: 01423 502116 or