Corrie star Charlie Condou has high hopes for Jack and the Beanstalk at Princes Theatre, Clacton

Coronation Street actor Charlie Condou, appearing in Jack and the Beanstalk in Clacton

Coronation Street actor Charlie Condou, appearing in Jack and the Beanstalk in Clacton - Credit: Archant

It’s Coronation Street star Charlie Condou’s first day of rehearsals for Jack and the Beanstalk at Clacton’s Princes Theatre when I call. It’s not got off to a great start. He was up at 5.30am with his ill son and train delays meant he arrived late. He’s still excited though.

Coronation Street actor Charlie Condou, appearing in Jack and the Beanstalk in Clacton

Coronation Street actor Charlie Condou, appearing in Jack and the Beanstalk in Clacton - Credit: Archant

“I’ve never done panto before. My kids (five-year-old daughter Georgia and nearly three-year-old son Hal) are going to love it. Although I read the CBeebies Bedtime Story and they weren’t interested in watching that at all, so maybe they won’t be interested in seeing me on stage either,” he laughs.

The actor, who played midwife Marcus Dent for about four-and-a-half years altogether on the long-running soap, wanted to do something both could actually watch.

“They were too young for Coronation Street... My little boy’s really into Jack and the Beanstalk at the moment, he watches the film we (recorded) off the telly all the time, so when this came through I thought ‘this will be brilliant’.”

His role as Simple Simon in the Polka Dot Pantomimes show is worlds apart from that of Dent.

“Just a bit,” laughs Condou, who never intended to stay in Weatherfield as long as he did. Tempted by strong storylines, he stayed on - but he really missed Georgia and Hal, who he and partner Cameron Laux co-parent with Catherine Kanter.

“It’s really easy to get comfortable (but) I’m based in London, my family’s in London, my kids are there at school. I was spending a lot of time on the train to Manchester, only seeing them one day a week. My daughter was getting to the age where she was starting to really struggle with me being away all the time and it wasn’t working for me any more.

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“I didn’t want to spend the next few years doing that. Once I realised I wanted to leave I had to do it sooner rather than later. I loved the job, the people. Coronation Street feels part of my life and always has done because I watched it as a kid. I was really sad to leave but I knew it was the right thing for me. It was a relief once I’d done it because it meant I got to spend more time with my family.”

The door has been left open for his return.

“It could easily have gone the other way, you tell them you want to leave and they kill you off. Who knows what will happen,” says Condou, who’d just finished the play Next Fall at the Southwark Playhouse, the first time he’d been on stage in about eight years.

“It was really nice to get back to that, it was the lead and a great part so I really really enjoyed that but it was exhausting,” he laughs. “This job (Jack and The Beanstalk) is so totally different to anything I’ve done before and I’ve really enjoyed that. It’s one of the great things about being in this business, everything’s new.”

As well as acting, Condou is known as a gay rights advocate, working with groups like Diversity Role Models. Acceptance is a constant struggle and there are always going to be battles to be fought he says.

“From my point of view, it’s very clear - it’s not about gay rights it’s about human rights. As people we should all be treated the same. That’s why I believe in equal marriage so strongly.”

He’s glad to see attitudes towards same-sex parenting couples such as himself and Laux, changing so quickly.

“The amount of same sex parents in this country has tripled in the last two years and is continuing to grow at that rate. It’s becoming more and more common really. Our situation is very much like any divorced couple if you like, the kids live between two homes. The only difference is we get on really well,” he laughs.

“We holiday together, spend all our time together and it’s great. It works for us and it works for the kids more importantly - you have to look at what’s best for them.”

That includes bringing them along to see Jack and the Beanstalk running to January 3.

“It’s got everything a traditional panto has; it’s fun for all the family and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the audiences respond. I hope they like it - I think it’s hilarious.”

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