Good old Phil Mitchell from Eastenders will be taking to the stage this Christmas in Dartford's panto.

He actually goes by the name Steve McFadden and he is no stranger to preforming in pantomimes.

Steve has been a very prominent figure on Eastenders since 1990 with many a shocking love story or grisly storyline.

At the Orchard Theatre this year, Steve will be playing Captain Hook in this years panto, Peter Pan.

Steve, you’re no stranger to panto. What is it that brings you back year after year?

Because I’m in Eastenders, it’s like the perfect antidote. It compiles opposites so it is a complete antidote and if I wasn’t at Eastenders I wouldn’t want to do it. It’s such a lovely challenge for me.

It must be refreshing to perform onstage in front of an audience. How does it compare to screen acting?

It’s completely different. You go with the feedback that you get. You’ve got to let the laughs roll like a wave and ride them. I used to do market trading, and used to sell stuff, and you’ve got to react to the crowd. If you come out with the wrong line at the wrong time, it’s just going to go flat. You get a shape of it which Andy, our great comic, is a master at and I’m an amateur at.

You’ve worked with Andy before. What’s your partnership like onstage and who gets the most laughs?

Oh, him. That’s what he is there for. I’m the baddie but he gets laughs at my expense.

Have you done stage work besides panto?

Not that much. I went to RADA, and did all that, and I thought I was going to go into theatre but it just didn’t happen.

Would you like to do more of it?

I would’ve done but I’m not that bothered now. It’s sort of past me by, really. In showbusiness, and in life, doors open and some doors don’t. You just go through the doors that open.

Do you get nervous onstage?

I have been but I’m comfortable with it now.

I suppose panto gives you that freedom to make mistakes because the audience are having fun and are on your side regardless.

Yeah, but I don’t like it though. Nobody likes to screw up because then you break it up for the other person as well. They’ve got their flow and they’re working off of you so I do care a lot about trying to get it right. It is a bit forgiving if you get it wrong. People don’t notice it but we do.

Now, this year’s production is Peter Pan. Can you tell us a bit about your character?

He’s not just Captain Hook; he’s been abused by this young gentleman who cut off his arm and chucked it to the crocodile. What a liberty! It’s enough to make him hostile isn’t it.

Will you be adding your own East End twist to the character?

Yes. He’ll speak a bit like me: a bit growly, a bit gruff. But I’ve always thought that you do take it back to the elements. He’s a handicapped man on a ship full of pirates. You’re not going to sleep easily at night, are you? You’re going to lock the door. I mean, Henry VIII used to brick himself into his bedroom. I don’t know what Captain Hook does to his door but it must be quite a tenuous to hold. He’s the captain of cutthroat bunch of rogues so he’s got to be a fairly strong individual who doesn’t suffer fools or beat around the bush.

Do you have any musical numbers?

Apparently. Yes. I’ve got an old script but I haven’t got a new one yet and I’ve got a new song. The crowd won’t enjoy it but I will.

Can we expect to see you as Buttons one year, or a pantomime dame?

No, it’s not going to happen. It just doesn’t work. When I was at RADA, I did all sorts of things. And I did clowning. I dressed up as a clown at my friend’s daughter’s birthday party. Kids ran screaming from the room. His daughter cried her eyes out. I emptied the room and all I did was walk in with a chef’s hat on and a big red nose. I didn’t even open my mouth or have a chance to say anything. I gathered, at that point, to stick to the villains.

You’re often involved in Eastenders’ biggest storylines so your work schedule must be hectic already. How do you manage panto on top of that and find the time to squeeze rehearsals in?

Have a scooter. Go to work by helicopter. Stay up late and learn lines. It’s a discipline. I’ve got time out of Eastenders but I will be learning the script for this when I’m at the show. And when I’m finishing this off, I’ll be learning the lines for Eastenders. It’s about getting up early and going to bed late and doing the homework.

How many weeks of rehearsals do you get before the first performance?

We start on Monday and we’ll open Friday week. The second week isn’t rehearsals because you’re doing the tech runs, which is making sure the curtain goes up at the right time and the lights come on and the crocodile waggles its tail or whatever. So, the second week is gone but I always turn up knowing what I’m doing from day one. Second week is putting it to bed and then you’re open.

What is it about this theatre that sets it apart from any other?

They’ve asked me back. Every theatre has an energy; it’s what you bring to the place. It’s a really nice theatre and I had a really good time the last time I was here. Wherever we go, we have a good time. I discovered, when I first did panto, that I wasn’t sure what it was all about. Am I supposed to be funny? Am I supposed to be singing? What am I doing? I was stood outside thinking ‘what am I doing here?’ and I could hear the noise of the audience. I was nervous and then I heard the audience come out and it was a completely different change of tone. The fun. The laughter. The chit-chat. People were just having a shared experience. And that’s when I realised what I was doing. It’s a family experience for everyone with people they love. When I worked out what I was doing, that’s when I realised I wanted to do it again. I enjoyed that aspect of it, which is making people happy and having a good laugh. You don’t get that at Eastenders.

Peter Pan opens at The Orchard Theatre on Sat 14 December and runs until Sun 5 January. Book online at or call our Ticket Office on 01322 220000.