From Priscilla to panto for Blue star Duncan James

Duncan James
Duncan James

It’s been a great year for Duncan James. He’s hoping for more of the same in 2016 as panto in Southampton takes him into the New Year.

He was touring Priscilla Queen of the Desert until panto rehearsals started; next year he goes back into Priscilla; and then he will be celebrating 15 years of Blue.

“We have got a greatest hits and all sorts of TV, all sorts of things happening,” says Duncan. “I am really looking forward to it.”

In the meantime, he’s Aladdin at the Mayflower until January 3: “The panto is going to be amazing. I did my first panto last year in Birmingham, Jack and the Beanstalk. My second panto ever will be in Southampton.

“I got offered Birmingham panto, and it was huge.”

At first, it didn’t grab. Duncan admits now he hadn’t remotely realised either the scale or the quality of just what it was that was possibly coming his way.

“I didn’t imagine anything at all like it was. I poo-pooed the idea at first, but I was told that it was actually going to be like a big West End experience, fantastic production values, really brilliantly done, with fabulous big effects and scenery and staging. I had a meeting and they showed me stuff on the computer screen, and it just looked amazing. And it was! We had a 3D giant, and I had a huge inflatable bean stalk I climbed up. It was so much fun.”

Hopes are similarly high for Aladdin: “Our nation is so engrossed by TVs and computers, and no one gets to go out much. No one needs to go anywhere. You don’t even have to go outside to buy clothes. Everything is all there for you on your computer screen. So it is great to get the kids and families out so they can see what proper live entertainment is. I think we have become very reliant on the comfort of our own homes. This is a great way to have fun. If you can grab an audience with a show that is so fast and funny and gripping, then they will really be transfixed.”

Since his Blue days, Duncan has had a great time in the theatre: “But actually I grew up doing theatre. That’s what I started off doing as a child from the age of four. But I have been lucky enough to do all sorts of work in all sorts of different areas, whether presenting or TV or panto. I just love being on stage. I love being in a show.And for me doing Priscilla was just the best. It was right out of my comfort zone. A lot of people were quite shocked to see me in a dress, and it was great to get an opportunity really to sing on my own. There was no hiding at all in Priscilla! To show that you can really hold a song on your own, without being in a group, has been fantastic.” After panto, Priscilla resumes its tour, taking Duncan with it in full Australian drag queen mode. But then he will be returning to Blue for the anniversary celebrations: “We have got the greatest hits happening and all sorts of other stuff going on. It is going to be great.”

Aladdin is at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre until January 3.

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