A star of TV and stage is looking forward to bringing the magic of theatre to families this Christmas.
Deena Payne, who has made the Wetherby area her home, is well known to many as Viv, the brassy southerner she played for 18 years in the popular soap Emmerdale.
But after being written out Deena has been treading the boards again and following nine successful tours of Calendar Girls she is to star as the Wicked Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at York’s Grand Opera House.
“I like being wicked,” chuckled Deena who took a break from rehearsals to speak to the Wetherby News.
“It’s really good here and quite relaxed, people can put their ideas in and have their input.”
Just days after finishing her latest tour of Calendar Girls, a show she admits to feeling humbled to be a part of, she is throwing herself into her new role as Caraboss.
“We weren’t allowed to do panto while in Emmerdale but as soon as I came out I did the wicked queen at Manchester Opera House and then last year I did a good fairy at Darlington and now I’m back in a naughty and wicked role which is great.”
The 58-year-old who hails from Kent speaks passionately about the impact of live theatre and added: “I like lots of things about pantomime.
“I think it is really important in these days of having computers and conversations with a phone and not actual people that families come together to get the atmosphere of theatre.
“And I think with the fun they experience with pantomime, the atmosphere of real live theatre, it is something that is missing from watching two dimensional television.
“I think it is really really important and I also think it starts children off wanting to be in theatre themselves and coming to see more live theatre.
“And the major thing is coming together as a family unit to go the pantomime.”
After casting aside her clothes as part of the cast of Calendar Girls Deena is looking forward to the theatrical costume of the wicket fairy and added: “It is amazing what is wicked and horrible in real life is reallying frightening to them and I try not to be too scary.
“We want them to have a good time.”
She added that she does not regret leaving Emmerdale as she was in theatre for 23 years before becoming a family face on the box in homes across the country.
“So actually going back to do Calendar Girls which I have done for two years on and off now it was like putting an old pair of slippers on.
“I had a good go at being Viv in Emmerdale and rode all the challenges they slung at me but 18 years was absolutely right.
“My son (Will) was six months when I started in Emerdale and over 18 when I left and he was independent, had his own car and didn’t need me any more so that made me independent and I made the decision and was off on tour and caught up with friends and family around the country who I hadn’t seen for 18 or more years.”
Sleeping Beauty will be performed twice a day with just three days off including Christmas Day when Deena, who is married to musician Steven Grant, will spend time with her family, some of whom will travel up from Kent.
Read next week’s Wetherby News to find out what Deena plans next.
Sleeping Beauty opens tomorrow at York Grand Opera House. Tickets 0844 871 3024.