'I get a bit carried away – I just love playing the baddie'
THE breathy, American voice is familiar – the role is not. Sandra Dickinson, adored by a generation of men after playing Trillian in the 1981 television series The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, is currently hoping to break box-office records by playing the wicked Queen Malificent in the pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which opened last weekend at the Corn Exchange in Exeter and runs until January 9.
"Rehearsals went well and everyone knew their lines except me," she laughs. "It's a lovely cast and everyone is very, very good in their parts.
fun role: Sandra Dickinson (centre) as Queen Malificent, with the rest of the cast
"It's always a bit terrifying doing the first performance, but of course doing pantomime is not like doing Shakespeare because of course when things go wrong in panto the audience love it. You like to get it perfect, but of course it is funnier when all goes wrong.
"I just love doing panto – my husband (Mark Osmond) and I met doing pantomime eight years ago and they've cast us together this year and so I get to be with him, which is great. I'm the wicked queen and he's my henchman."
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Also in the cast is the grande dame of Exeter panto, Steve Bennett, who plays Dame Dolly Dumpling and Sandra says she is having a great time working with him.
"Steve is really lovely – there is a real sense of teamwork about the piece and so it is a pleasure to do it," she says.
Despite having been a fantasy figure for many men as Trillian, Sandra admits to rather enjoying playing the evil queen.
"I tend to get a little carried away with it because I just love playing the baddie," she says with a laugh. "I don't spend a lot of time trying to look beautiful, so I try to make it as funny as possible.
"It's getting to be an annual thing for me. I hadn't done panto in years and now I'm doing it more or less every Christmas, either as the wicked queen or the fairy godmother – they are both enjoyable roles. I think the wicked queen is slightly more fun though, because you have got more to get your teeth into."
She is also thrilled that the whole genre of pantomime has become much more popular in recent years.
"All the Shakespearean actors are doing it in London, which gives panto kudos and a credibility that it didn't have before – but of course we're all still terribly serious actors," she says, in her best "luvvie" voice, before dissolving into giggles. The one downside, however, is that she only has Christmas Day off – and that is her daughter's birthday.
"I want to go home and be with her (the actress Georgia Moffett), but she is coming with her son to see the panto in the new year, which I'm really looking forward to," she says.
"We will be on television together in January in a programme called White Van Man, which is the first time we have worked together professionally – I play her mother in one episode and that is really exciting.
"I was doing a play with Victor Spinetti (Murdered to Death) for the last six months and we are going back on the road in the new year, although I think the nearest we come to Exeter is Poole.
"I'm hoping this will be the first of many years here at the Corn Exchange, though – it is really fabulous and I love it," she says.
So Exeter has captured her heart? "Exeter is really nice. We are staying just outside the city on a farm, which is very lovely. It is a little chilly though, I have to say," she says, wryly.
"It is a very lovely city and is a great mixture of new and old – I love the historic. There are great restaurants, places to go and fabulous shops – it is a really, really nice place.
"The Corn Exchange is a terrific venue right in the centre of town and I think it'll be a wonderful show. I am hoping everyone will come along.
"I usually break box office records, so I'm hoping we will do the same this time. I really want to come back."
For more information or to book tickets, telephone the box office on 01392 665938 or see www.exeter.gov.uk/snowwhite