Actor heads back to theatre that gave him a chance to work professionally

Amy Matthews and Peter Dukes
Amy Matthews and Peter Dukes
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Peter Dukes returns to Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre this Christmas, the theatre that gave him an important early opportunity.

Peter is playing Prince Charming in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (December 5-January 4), but he was also in Aladdin at the venue at a time when he was still a student at Guildford School of Acting.

“I was at GSA from 2006-2009, and it was a brilliant place to study. I loved Guildford, and I was lucky enough to get to do the panto while I was still training. I was just a policeman and part of the ensemble, but it was a great chance to work in the theatre professionally before I had graduated. It is such a friendly theatre as well. It’s really like coming back to old friends.

“I loved the whole course in Guildford. It was great all-round training.”

Clearly it has stood him in good stead. He’s now been a professional for five years, and it has all gone very well.

“I have not really had that many gaps at all, maybe three to four months in those five years. You have got to take everything with a pinch of salt in the business. If you can’t keep yourself busy doing something or teaching or whatever, then you are not really built for it – unless of course you are shot straight into fame very early on!”

Among the highlights have been two years in the West End as ‘swing’ in Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre – a job which meant covering nine different roles in the ensemble. If someone dropped out, Peter was on; and given the demands, other commitments, illness etc, the fact is that most nights Peter did actually get to go on.

“It was quite a mammoth learn, but once you have got all nine roles into your head, then it is great.”

If you don’t get to go on, it’s both relief and disappointment: “When I first started, obviously you want to get on as much as you possibly can, but after a while, every now and again, it was quite nice to have the night off to read a book or watch the television. But really it was very enjoyable – once you have got the learning done!”

And now for something completely different. As Peter says pantomime really is a different kettle of fish, not least in the way that the audience has such a big part in deciding how it is all going to go.

As for the role: “For Prince Charming, I suppose I have got to try to look handsome and dashing. I hope I can manage that! I hope I can also bring a bit of gravitas to the part, some realism to it, but not too much!”

His other theatre credits include: Richard/Mr Budge/Jermayne’s Dad in Run! A Sports Day Musical (Polka Theatre); Steve Edwards in Babes in Arms (Union Theatre); Gentleman Starkey/cover Hook/fight captain in Peter Pan (Mayflower/Grand Canal Theatre); Pirate/Policeman in Pirates of Penzance (Kilworth House), White Knight/cover Arbiter in Chess (UK tour and Princess of Wales, Toronto); Cover Rolf/Herr Zeller in The Sound of Music (UK tour); Porthos/Fight Captain in The Three Musketeers, Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, Algernon in Importance of Being Earnest (Open Air Tours, Jenny Wren Productions); various in Duck Tales (The Playground); Trotter in Journey’s End (Electric Theatre); West End chorus in Chess In Concert (Royal Albert Hall) and A Night of a Thousand Stars (Marlowe Theatre).

Tickets: 01483 440000 or www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk.