SHE'S behind you! Watch out for Sophie Ladds, who plays the excellent panto baddie Aunty Banazar in Aladdin at the Towngate Theatre.

The show opened last Friday to rapturous applause!

Our What's On reviewer Kloe Hackett hailed the production as a being full of side-splitting humour, flawless choreography and jaw-dropping special effects while she praised Sophie Ladds for her banter and versatility.

LOUISE FRANKTON catches up with the musical theatre actress.

Q: Tell us about your character in the panto this year

A: She is the master of disguise (or so she thinks) and 100 per cent evil.

Q: What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

A: When I was little my sister and I got Hungry Hippos to share for Christmas. I remember feeling like we were the luckiest girls in the world.

Q. Where are you spending Christmas this year?

A: I’m spending it with my family. My sister is hosting this year which is great. I’m looking forward to having lunch cooked for me - although I’m in charge of the Yorkshire’s! My dog Nellie will be coming too so she and my nieces can wear each other out.

Q: What’s your favourite line from a pantomime?

A: I think it has to be Simons famous 'Hiya B B Boys and Girls’. The Towngate panto wouldn’t be the same without it.

Q: What’s your favourite Christmas song?

A: Oooh its a toughie. George Michael was my first crush so you can’t beat a bit of Last Christmas... but also you only need to hear those first few bars of Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas and you know the season has begun.

Q: What’s the best thing about Christmas dinner?

A: Yorkshire puddings. I make them myself and if Simon and I ever have Christmas together we fight to the death over them.

Q: If you could receive any present this year, what would it be?

A: David Beckham would be nice.

Q: Will you be making a Christmas cake or pudding?

A: Hahaha! During panto season I don’t have time to do anything like that. I love a bit of Bake Off but that’s as far as it goes.

Q: What makes the Towngate panto unique?

A: The Towngate panto really is unlike any other I have been lucky enough to take part in ...or view. Simon starts working on it pretty much as soon as the current one finishes. It’s not ‘just a panto’ - there is such thought and consideration put into it to make it the best it can possibly be and to give the audience the best time. The dancing and choreography is unlike any other panto in the country in my opinion. Each number is huge and the dancers are incredible.

Q: Have you had an interesting audience experience over the years?

A: I was once in the middle of a duet with Simon when someone decided that was the moment to go to the toilet. Simon was sat on the front of the stage and she literally moved him out of the way when he was mid song. Ideal!

Q: Do you have a pre-show ritual?

A: Not really. I’m sadly renowned for flying a little by the seat of my pants in terms of getting ready. I don’t know where the time goes. If I haven’t had a Skinny Cortado though, (a drink from a well-known coffee shop) then everyone needs to be slightly afraid.

Q: If you could have Christmas dinner with anyone – dead or alive – who would it be?

A: This is so difficult. I’m going to pick a few... George Michael, Christopher Biggins, Caroline Aherne, Victoria Wood and Julie Walters would be a fun table...along with Simon of course and David Beckham.

Q: What’s your favourite Christmas film?

A: I don’t really have one. I have a psychological problem with films as I know I have to sit still for two to three hours. Does Bridget Jones count? I pretty much know every line. There’s snow in it - that makes it Christmassy. I’m basically Bridget Jones in real life.

Q: How early do you start your Christmas shopping?

A: I’ve done quite well this year. I think the box office get a bit sick of bringing all the deliveries round to my dressing room every day. I should probably get them a present!

Q: What’s the strangest Christmas present you’ve received?

A: In a secret Santa I once got a load of the free gifts they put in cereal boxes. It was a bit odd. Not really the dream.

Q: What’s your favourite recipe for ‘dealing’ with sprouts?

A: God -I have no idea! I just hope for the best.

Q: What’s your favourite part of Christmas Day?

A: I love watching my family’s faces when they open a present that they love and that they weren’t expecting.

Q: Do you know what you will be doing for New Year’s Eve?

A: I did panto 11 years ago in Winchester and the girl playing the baddie and I have been friends ever since. This year she is baddie in Chelmsford and is staying with me for panto season which is lovely. We may either have a night in together or I might be going to Simon's for a little get together. New Year is a day off for me and I then have two shows the following day so I can’t go too mad.

Q: Do you ever make New Year Resolutions? If so, will you be making one this year?

A: I don’t make them. If I do then I’ll have forgotten them by New Years Day after having a few too many jäger bombs.

Q: And finally, why should people come see Aladdin at the Towngate Theatre this year? It has something for everyone. The dancing is off the scale, the songs and production numbers are huge and there are A: Some magical moments that I can’t mention... you have to come and see it!

Aladdin is on at the Towngate Theatre, St Martin's Square, Basildon until January 2.

Visit for booking and further information.