Casualty star Charles Dale certainly likes a change of pace – instead of an NHS uniform, he’s donning full drag for new musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Charles appeared for eight and a half years as porter-turned-healthcare assistant Big Mac on Casualty but is also recognised for playing the role of Dennis Stringer on Coronation Street and as Gary ‘Chef’ Alcock in hard-hitting drama The Lakes.
In new musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Charles plays retired drag queen Hugo.
He encounters young wannabe drag artist Jamie when the teenager comes into his costume shop looking for a frock to wear to his school prom.
He ends up mentoring the youngster, making a brief comeback as his alter ego of Loco Chanel.
Performing on stage in a dress is a new experience for Charles.
He said: “The only drag I have done was in the Rovers Return when Dennis Stringer was part of the Shangri-Las on the way to a fancy dress party.”
He’d often watched the professionals at work in a famous London drag bar, though.
“When I was at drama school in the Eighties we frequented Madame JoJo’s in Soho, thanks to the licensing laws, because it was one of the only drinking clubs in the West End that stayed open late.
“You’d find a lot of theatre people in there.
“We are so much more aware of drag now than we used to be.
“It’s just a bit different but it’s all acting. You don’t have to kill anyone to play a murderer – and I’ve played a few of those.”
Charles does have some experience of performing music on stage to fall back on, though, and he sings two songs in the show, including The Legend of Loco Chanel.
The musical features original songs written by Dan Gillespie Sells, formerly of pop band The Feeling, who collaborated with Doctor Who screenwriter Tom MacRae on creating the show.
He said: “Growing up in Wales I was in an R&B band, a guitarist and vocalist, playing in hotels and pubs but I haven’t done a musical for 20 years.
“Dan’s music is fantastic – it’s so varied.”
He left Casualty last March. “A lot of mates had left and I just thought it was time to do something different.
“When you are in Casualty you can’t do anything else but since then I’ve done episodes of Moving On and Grantchester. And it’s great to be back in the theatre. Five weeks rehearsal compared to what you get with telly.”
His rugby playing days are now over but he still plays cricket as wicket-keeper for the Lord’s Taverners. “I’m known as the evil twin of Mike Gatting,” he joked.
Others he’s played alongside include Ian Botham and Brian Lara.
He was part of their 65th anniversary tour to Antigua and Barbuda to play a T20 match against the Sir Viv Richards XI.
Born in Tenby, Charles now lives in Cardiff and has a 14-year-old son.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie stars John McCrea as Jamie, Josie Walker as his mum and TV actress Mina Anwar as her best friend.
The show is at the Crucible until Saturday.
Tickets from the Crucible box office, online at Sheffield Theatres or call 0114 249 6000.