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Soap stars ready for panto frolicks
8:00am Saturday 15th September 2012 in News
SHE’S best known as Nigel’s stepdaughter in EastEnders and super-vixen Claire Devine from Hollyoaks whereas he pounded the beat on The Bill – now they are set to bring a double dose of stardust to Grays this festive season.
Soap opera stars Gemma Bissix and Chris Simmons will be heading up the cast for the Thameside Theatre’s Christmas pantomime, Cinderella, which will run for 55 performances from December to January.
Gemma, 29, is hoping to shed her bad girl reputation as Fairy Flustered.
The actress, who joined EastEnders aged just nine as Claire Bates, has already got plenty of theatre experience under her belt, but it’s her role as calculating Claire on Hollyoaks that she’s most famous for.
Gemma said: “I had a great time on EastEnders, but Hollyoaks was fun because I got to be so bad.
“The public really hated Claire. People still sometimes hurl insults. Once I went into Sainsbury’s and the cashier refused to serve me!
“As an actor is goes with the territory, but actually it’s quite a compliment because if she thinks it’s real then I must be doing a good job.”
Gemma, who also featured in the 2009 series of Dancing on Ice, has most recently been treading the boards in a play in Milton Keynes, but said she’d love to make it from Hollyoaks to Hollywood.
She said: “I’d love to do a costume drama, a Pride and Prejudice style film, but I think I have to branch out a bit from soap opera work first.
"My gran is always saying to me ‘you are so bad in everything, why can’t you play someone nice?’ So it would be great to be in a film.”
Meanwhile the part of Buttons will be played by Chris Simmons.
The actor, who grew up in Gravesend, Kent, made his name as Det Con Mickey Webb on the Bill, but has also appeared in EastEnders as one of Kat Moon’s lovers.
He said: “I can’t wait. This job looks like lot of fun. “It’s a lot of shows and will be hard work, but I can’t wait.
“The Bill seems like a long time ago now, but I’ve been pretty busy since.”
Before his acting days Chris, who now lives in Greenwich, had a variety of jobs including working with his dad as a diver on the River Thames. In fact Chris once had to pull a dead body out of the river at Tilbury.
He recalled: “I was only about 19. It was really sad, a woman in a car who had committed suicide.
“I don’t think I was cut out for that job.”
Polka Dot Pantomines, the force behind this year’s panto, is promising it will be a “bundle of laughs” with lots of audience participation – in fact, “the most spectacular show ever staged at the Thameside”.
Cinderella runs from Friday, December 7, to Sunday, January 6, at the Thameside, in Orsett Road, Grays. Tickets are on sale now. Call the Thameside box office on 0845 3005264.