|Image Source: Claire Simmo|
Claire Simmo is one of the more recognisable voices in the city, due to her work on Radio City 2 alongside the likes of Simon Ross. But she has other talents that she can bring to the forefront, and they will be on display as she waves her magic fairy dust as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, this year's big Christmas pantomime at the Epstein Theatre. We spoke to Claire about Peter Pan, her career in radio, and her least favourite Christmas present to date!
First of all, tell us about your character in Peter Pan.
My character is Tinkerbell. I think that Tinkerbell is my favourite role to play, because not only does she get lots of sparkle and lots of glitz, but she's also quite mischievous! She has this really innocent face, but she really gets away with murder! (Laughs)
Have you always been a fan of pantomime, and what other productions have you previously starred in?
I did my very first panto here when it was the Neptune, because I'd trained at Elliott-Clarke (Dance & Drama). I played Sleeping Beauty, and since then, I've done countless pantos in St. Helens Theatre Royal. I've played Tinkerbell before, and I've played Glinda in The Wizard Of Oz, plus I did a stint in Southport as well. But it's just so nice because I've waited so many years to work with (producer) Lee Kelly and it's never happened. So, this year when I got the call, I went "Yes!" because this is what I wanted to do. There's also such an amazing cast.
How did you break into radio, and what advice would you give to anyone looking to break into radio themselves?
As I say, I trained at Elliott-Clarke Dance & Drama for three years. I've always wanted to be on stage, and I've always wanted to sing. Then, I was just driving into work one morning, and I heard Kev Seedy on the radio saying that the travel girl was off and would anyone like to come in and have a go? So, I just went "I can do that!" I went in and did it and the rest, as they say, is history! I was literally just in the right place at the right time. It's a hard industry to get into nowadays, so you've got to be prepared to work a lot for very little money, and realise that you're totally replaceable at any time! (Laughs)
What would you consider to be the highlights of your radio career so far?
There are so many highlights of my radio career. A lot of mine relate to getting involved with the charities like Alder Hey and to work with When You Wish Upon A Star, and to do so many different things out in the city. I'm very lucky that we get to meet some of nice people, I get to go to the theatre all of the time. I just love what I do. I love every single part of my job.
Any interesting stories that you can tell from your career?
There was one time when I was on stage in panto, when I was working with Kurtis Stacey and we were doing Jack And The Beanstalk together. There was a scene where he had to bash into the back of me, and because he's quite a big, muscly lad, every night it would get harder and harder. Then, this one night, he bashed into me that hard that I whizzed across the stage, nearly fell off the edge and grabbed the scenery, pulled all the scenery down, and they had to stop the show! That is like my worst moment ever! After that, it was like "Here's 'break the scenery' Simmo!" That was possibly my most embarrassing moment, over in St. Helens Theatre Royal; they haven't let me back in since! (Laughs)
The panto will be taking place in the run-up to Christmas. Is this usually a busy time of year for you, and what is the worst Christmas present that you've received?
Oh, good grief! Christmas is the busiest time for me. I love Christmas; it's my favourite time of year. Probably the worst Christmas present I have ever had; a few years ago, they used to do Soap On A Rope. I remember getting this blue one off my auntie, and she was made up. If it had been pink, I probably could have gotten away with it! But it was blue, and she was like "Oh look, it can hang over the bath!" And I was like "I don't think so, no!" (Laughs)
Will your family and friends be coming to watch you in Peter Pan?
I've already bullied most of my family and friends into booking tickets to see the show! Everyone knows as far as I go that if I'm in a panto, then you have to come otherwise there'll be all kinds of trouble! But most of my friends and family do come and watch anyway. Normally, my daughter dances and she manages to get into the pantos, but she's like 5'9 now even though she's only 11, and she's too tall to get to audition this year! So, I'll be doing it solo this year, which is quite weird, but I'm looking forward to it. It's a break from the kids, yay! (Laughs)
Finally, why should the Liverpool audience come to see Peter Pan this year?
I think they should come because it is 22 years since Peter Pan has been done here at the Epstein. It's one of those shows that is different, and it's great for the younger boys as well because often, with Cinderella and Snow White, it can seem to be all-girly with the big dresses, but here you've got the male characters for the lads, while for the girls you've still got the sparkly Tinkerbell and the Wendy and the Tiger Lily. Plus, I'd imagine with Michael Chapman writing it that there's gonna be a few innuendos in it for the adults as well! (Laughs) I just think it's gonna be the one panto not to miss!
Peter Pan will head into the Epstein Theatre from Friday December 8 to Monday January 1 2018. To book your tickets, click here.