YOU must have seen CBeebies’ favourite Maddie Moate’s smiling face on the side of buses, at shelters, on billboards and flyers, as the poster star for York Theatre Royal’s pantomime, All New Adventures Of Peter Pan.
“It’s very strange because it’s not usual to see pictures of myself staring back at me at bus stops, on lamp posts and even the menus here !” says the Maddie’s Do You Know? television presenter, podcaster, YouTuber and children’s author, who will be starring as feisty fairy Tinkerbell in creative director Juliet Forster’s production from tomorrow (2/12/2022) to January 2 2023. “That’s an entirely new experience!
“There’s a little pressure there, but I’m really glad the show is selling so well because, being at the front of the poster, I’m aware it comes with responsibility, though the show is not ‘the Tinkerbell show’, it’s very much about the ensemble, the full cast. After all, Tinkerbell is often played by a little light bulb or a bell!”
Following Andy Day – Dandini in last year’s Cinderella – as the CBeebies’ name in the York Theatre Royal-Evolution Productions co-production, Maddie was the first signing for the Peter Pan cast and will be sharing the stage with returnees Faye Campbell (Elizabeth Darling), Paul Hawkyard (Captain Hook) and Robin Simspon (Mrs Smee); viral video sensation Jonny Weldon (Starkey) and Jason Battersby (Peter Pan).
Not only being the dominant face on the panto poster is new to Maddie, so too will be flying across the stage. “I’m not scared of flying. In fact, I’m thrilled! When I found out I’d be flying, that was the clincher for me, though I would have done it regardless. It was the cherry on the cake,” she says.
She conducted this interview the day before “Flyday Friday”, when the company met the flying team from Foy’s [Flying By Foy] for the first time. “All of us, apart from Jason, who was in Wendy & Peter Pan at Leeds Playhouse last winter – are first-time flyers, so it’ll be exciting to give it a go,” says Maddie.
“We’ll have to be at least 15ft high to fly through the window: the Theatre Royal stage is tall and it’s deep but it’s not so wide, so we’ll need a bit of height.”
Maddie will be making her entry that way. “I’ll have the one flying scene and then it’s done for me! I get it over and done with in my first scene,” she says.
Rather than a light or a bell, Maddie’s Tinkerbell is “one of Peter Pan’s sidekicks” in these All New Adventures. “She’s one of the Lost Children’s gang; they are her family, and she doesn’t like it when anyone else takes Peter’s attention away as he’s her very best friend.
“It’s said that fairies are so small, they have room for only one emotion at a time, so she’s a character of extremes – and she’s not like me!
“Quite often on TV you end up playing an exaggeration of yourself, but Tinkerbell is the furthest removed I could be from myself, and I’m having fun with that.”
Last Christmas, Maddie played Fairy Phoenix in panto at Leicester de Montfort Hall. “She was a fairy in training, whereas Tinkerbell has some serious fairy skills. Flying for one – and she has a stand-off with Captain Hook, where she gets to show off her magic skills.”
Her first experience of performing in panto was a “huge learning curve”. “Doing it for the first time made me really appreciate the medium, when it could be considered ‘silly’ or ‘not proper’ theatre, but last year I found it interesting to see just how steeped people are in the tradition,” she says.
“Some performers just have ‘panto bones. The timing. It’s all in the timing. So I got the rhythm of panto under my belt – I hope!”
Maddie had studied theatre, film and television at the University of Bristol from 2006 to 2009. “It was a course that had a little bit of everything, but first and foremost it was an academic degree,” she recalls.
“For a short time, I thought I wanted to go to drama school, but I quite quickly fell out of love with it and regretted not studying science. I was really missing science, which I hadn’t pursued as a degree because I didn’t know what role I would do afterwards, whereas I’d done theatre all my life.”
She would see wonderfully talented actors who would be perfect in a role but did not meet the director’s ideal for that part. Such unpredictability was unappealing, and so instead Maddie started working on an App for the National History Museum and ended up working for the wonderfully named Lady Geek TV.
Making a comedy YouTube series about smartphones and technology ensued. “Before I knew it, I was reviewing tech on YouTube and that became a career,” she recalls as the science side of Maddie found fulfilment.
“It was only later that CBeebies said they were looking for someone to talk about science on a new show, and it ended up being called Maddie’s Do You Know?”
Maddie has presented the series, exploring the secret workings of everyday objects, since 2016 and a year later she won the Best Presenter category at the BAFTA Children’s Awards. Multiple science-based projects have followed.
“Now it’s all come back round, starting as a performer, deciding not to pursue acting full time, then doing science, but now returning to the stage in pantomime all these years later,” she says.
All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, York Theatre Royal, December 2 to January 2 2023. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Copyright of The Press, York