Actor and children’s television legend Derek Griffiths is joining the cast for this year’s Norwich Theatre Royal festive production of Sleeping Beauty – 12 years after he last appeared in panto in the city.
Best-known to a generation of TV viewers for hosting classic children’s programmes Play School and Play Away, Derek more recently became a familiar face to soap followers for his portrayal of motor-bike loving and mild-mannered mechanic Freddie Smith in Coronation Street.
Derek first won the hearts of Norwich panto-goers when he appeared in the 2005-2006 Theatre Royal production of Peter Pan, playing Captain Hook with Richard Gauntlett in the title role and Rikki Jay as Smee. He also appeared in the Theatre Royal’s star-studded production of Twelfth Night at Houghton Hall in 2007, which raised funds for major refurbishments at the theatre.
Derek is thrilled to be making a return visit, this time as Chortwood, a butler with special powers, in this year’s Sleeping Beauty which will be set in a grand country house at the turn of the last century.
He said: “Norwich pantos are real class, and so are the audiences, of which I have fond memories!”
As a children’s presenter, Derek endeared himself to generations of tea-time television viewing children over a three-decade period from the 1960s to the 1980s, and his impressive acting CV includes working with the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years and appearing in numerous West End productions including as the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the original production of Beauty and the Beast, Miss Saigon and Two Gentlemen of Verona. His television appearances have included Holby City, Doctors, Casualty and The Tracey Ullman Show.
After leaving Coronation Street earlier this year, having spent a year on the famous cobbles during which time he befriended Kylie Platt and wooed Audrey Roberts, he has most recently been touring in Driving Miss Daisy alongside Dame Siân Phillips.
Judy Foster, communications officer at the theatre, said: “We’re thrilled that Derek is returning to the city to join our Sleeping Beauty cast. He is well-known by so many of us who grew up watching him on TV and we’re sure a whole new generation of children will love him in his role as butler Chortwood. It will be interesting to see how many parents, who saw him here as youngsters 12 years ago in Peter Pan, will now be bringing their own children to see him in Sleeping Beauty.”
Derek now completes the cast line-up for the panto, joining theatre actor and EastEnders regular Gillian Wright (Dowager Aunt Vipera), Theatre Royal favourites Richard Gauntlett and Ben Langley (Mrs Midges and Muddles Midges), and announced earlier this week Elizabeth Carter (as Sleeping Beauty Patience Midges), Glenn Adamson (the Hon. Timothy Norbridge) and Stephen Godward (Lord Teddy Norbridge).
Sleeping Beauty is here from 13 December 2017 – 14 January 2018. Buy tickets now at Norwich Theatre Royal.