Today actor Paul Nicholas loves dressing up and strutting the stage in panto, but originally he was pianist with rock group, The Savages, backing band for Screaming Lord Sutch.

It was during one of the band’s over-the-top staging of their songs that Paul had an epiphany.

Paul said: “I was just 17, it was pre-Beatles about 1962, and Screaming Lord Sutch had long hair when no one else did. He was a legend. He was Jack the Ripper for one song and I dressed up as his victim. He stabbed me! We had to have good timing and it stretched me. It was a fun thing to do. I enjoyed the dressing up and stoogeing, more than the singing and playing piano.’’

From that moment Paul’s path was set and despite managing glam rock band, The Sweet, having a minor hit himself with the David Bowie-written song, Over The Wall We Go, he turned to what became his natural home - musical theatre.

He had hooked up with Robert Stigwood’s Recreation Records and his first foray in theatre was as Claude in Hair, which Stigwood produced.

The title role in Jesus Christ Superstar followed, the part of Danny in Grease opposite Elaine Paige, and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing and Barnum with the tight rope walking.

“I fell off it every night,’’ said Paul. “It was part of the gig. Once it was six times in one night. I was supposed to be tight roping across to get to Jenny Lind, and after the sixth attempt a voice from the audience yelled: She’d better be worth it!’’

This Christmas Paul won’t be treading the tightrope but there will be plenty of flying as Paul takes on the role of Captain Hook in Peter Pan, at the Theatre Royal in Bath.

It is a role he knows well having been Peter Pan’s evil nemesis in the Swindon Wyvern Theatre’s production in 2010.

“I love playing the villain, he is a buffoon, a likeable rogue and great fun to play,’’ said Paul.

He will be starring alongside the acrobatic group the Nitwits as his pirates and Bath regular Jon Monie as his right hand man Smee.

Paul said: “Peter Pan is one of the top three pantos alongside Cinderella and Aladdin because it has a good little story. It is a traditional panto with flying and Tinkerbell and everything.’’

Along with this stage work Paul is known in both the TV and film industry. He starred in Stardust with David Essex, The Who’s Tommy, Lisztomaina, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond and as Neville Chamberlain in A Prominent Patient.

On TV Paul first brush with fame was in the sitcom Just Good Friends, Close To Home, Two Up Two Down and more recently EastEnders and The Real Marigold Hotel.

He starred as Kathy Beale’s ex husband, the evil Gavin Sullivan, in the popular soap.

“I was a small cog in a big machine in EastEnders. I truly admire them, it is non-stop, a juggernaut of a show. I did it for a year and it is quite draining, but it was really interesting to do,’’ said Paul.

In the Real Marigold Hotel Paul played himself. He said what was not to like about travelling to countries he had never been to, or would have ever thought of going to.

“It was great to do and not too long, only 10 days at a time. You have to go in with the right attitude. The great thing about this reality TV was you could not be voted off. There was an element of competition from the entertainers on screen, but it was not ferocious. It was a gentle show,’’ he said.

Paul’s father worked for M16 before becoming a solicitor in the entertainments industry.

“So he says,’’ laughed Paul. “He certainly spoke Flemish, French, German and he would go in and uproot the people who were collaborating. He spend a lot of time in Russia during the cold war ...’’

After panto Paul will be concentrating on his idea for a new play, which he is keeping under wraps for now.

His co-star in Peter Pan is Rebecca Wheatley, best known for her long standing role in Casualty. He said they had never met before until just before the panto was due to start. “We coincidently met when I was taking a workshop.’’

Peter Pan runs from December 13 to January 13, 2019 at the Theatre Royal, Bath. tickets are from £9 to £35.50 on 01225448844 or visit - Flicky Harrison