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TV bad guy has panto debut in Belfast

By Eddie McIlwaine

Television bad guy Jim Fenner has risen from the dead - and opens in pantomime at the Opera House in Belfast tonight.

Television bad guy Jim Fenner has risen from the dead - and opens in pantomime at the Opera House in Belfast tonight.

In other words actor Jack Ellis, who played bent prison warder Fenner in the long running drama series Bad Girls, is in town as Captain Hook in Peter Pan opposite May McFettridge as the grand dame.

"Evil Fenner was horrifically murdered in my final memorable scene," recalls Jack, making his first visit to the theatre since 1995 when he was in Twelfth Night there.

"This is also my first pantomime," reveals the man whose first trip to Northern Ireland was as a 22-year-old fledgling actor in 1979 when he played in Don Quixote and The Provoked Wife at the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine with The Actors' Touring Company.

"I drove past the Opera House on our way to Armagh for our next performance and promised myself I would return one day to such a beautiful theatre - and I did," he explained.

"Since Bad Girls I've been in A Few Good Men in the West End and shooting a film called Outlaws set in the East End and in which I play a tough father. Then one day I realised I had never done panto and, in order to complete my stage education, it was an honour to accept a role in Peter Pan playing opposite to such a comic genius as John Linehan who reminds me so much of that other great talent Stanley Baxter."

So for the first time the Ellis family will have Christmas away from home in London.

Which means that actress wife Christine Kavanagh, heard regularly on BBC Radio 4 plays, and son Theo (14) and daughter Alice (8) will all be in town with dad on Christmas Day.

"We are looking forward to an Ulster-style Christmas and John has promised to entertain us and help us to hang up our stockings," adds Jack.

Peter Pan runs at the Opera House from tonight until Saturday, January 20, and there are still tickets at 028 9024 1919.

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