For Brian Conley, Southend is a very special place.

Not only has it become one of his favourite places in the UK to perform, but it was, in fact, where his parents first met, many moons ago, on a traditional cockney beano outing.

So, it seems only right that it’s where the star of stage and screen will make his return to pantomime after a two-year hiatus in the classic fairy tale Cinderella at the Cliffs Pavilion.

Brian said: “I’m here because of Southend. I’ve performed there many times and it’s great.

"They’re a great crowd, they really are and it’s a lovely theatre.”

Brian Conley has enjoyed a prolific career and is well-known as an all-round entertainer, having performed in everything from large-scale musicals to variety performances. Most recently however, he’s been gracing the small screen in the BBC soap opera EastEnders.

But pantomime has long been a passion for Brian who said: “I love pantomime. I’m lucky that they have given me some time off from EastEnders. Just to be doing pantomime again is going to be wonderful.”

And like many others, pantomime was the stage stalwart’s first experience of live entertainment as a young child.

He explains: “I remember it so well. I saw Arthur Askey and Dicky Henderson in a pantomime when I was about five or six.

"I’m 60 now and I’ll never forget it. I was so disappointed that I didn’t get picked to go up on stage, I really wanted to.

"My Mum and Dad had to hold me back all the way through the show because I just wanted to jump up on stage.

"The excitement of live theatre is something we all need and it’s so important for small children to experience how wonderful it is. Anything can happen and it’s just a magical thing.”

Brian has been performing in the beloved festive theatrical tradition for over 30 years.

“I think if you Google it, it says I’ve done 34, but I think I’ve done more than that. I really love it because it’s the only show that ticks every box.

"You’ve got to be able to sing, dance, adlib, do comedy and pathos. It also allows you to have so much freedom as a performer, which I really love.” Brian explains.

This time around, Brian will be playing one of the most beloved pantomime characters of all time when he reprises the role of Buttons.

“It’s the character I’ve played the most. I’ve played Aladdin, and Dick Whittington and Robinson Crusoe, but I always go back to Buttons because it has everything. It has the pathos and it’s the best part for a comedian because Buttons is like a cheeky little lad.”

He continues: “Buttons can have fun with the audience, he can get someone up to do a duet and he can have fun with the story.

For me, when I play Buttons, I love to have a gentle dig at what pantomime is and I think the grown-ups appreciate it. It’s the only type of show where you can do that, you can have fun and you can try to make Cinderella laugh because the audience want that. At the end of the day, the role and the script are just a skeleton really.

"Everyone knows the story of Cinderella and it’s about all of the comedy that you hang on it.”

After the enforced break from not only pantomime, but theatre as a whole in 2020 (Brian was starring in the musical 9 to 5 in the West End when theatres closed due to the pandemic), the stage star is under no illusion as to the significance of its return.

He said: “It’s extremely important and pantomime is not just extremely popular, but it shows how much fun live theatre is. It’s probably the only time, as a family, that people sit down without any distractions.

"There’s no phones and they’re watching something live that’s exciting, that’s a bit dangerous, that’s right there before them and kids aren’t used to that now. It’s important to show that, as a family, you can enjoy that type of stuff.”

And Brian really can’t wait to be in front of a rapturous Southend audience once again. “Just hearing that crowd. It’s a vocation for me and it always has been. It’s in me. I love entertaining and I love taking people on a journey.”

He continues: “It’s the perfect family show that celebrates Christmas and it’s just a real laugh. This show is like a Ferrari.

"It’s been finely tuned up over many years. We are going to have people crying with laughter and that’s what I want. I want to see them with their hankies out.

"I’d say if you don’t book soon, you’ll end up sitting right at the back in the car park, so don’t wait. I’m very excited.”

Brian Conley will be performing as Buttons in Cinderella at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend from 13 December 2021 until 2 January 2022. For more details, visit