There is nothing like a dame when panto time rolls around - and Steven Blakeley knows that better than most.

He has been playing the dame in the annual pantomime at Windsor's Theatre Royal for 10 years.

But he never thought when he got his first offer to do panto at Windsor that things would turn out that way.

He was cast as Wishee Washee in Aladdin, appearing with the theatre's regular dame Michael Sharvell-Martin.

He said: "The following year the theatre did Cinderella which has two dames. I got a call saying that Michael had specifically asked for me to be one of the two ugly sisters with him.

"Tragically he died before it could happen, so the whole experience of doing it turned out to be a bitter sweet one.

"He taught me so much and I'll always be indebted to him."

Serendipity seems to have played a large role in Steven's life and career.

He said: "I only started acting because I was interested in the Second World War and my school staged a show about it. I played a much older man in it and everyone seemed pleased."

A year later he was appearing at the Derby Playhouse which offered opportunities to enthusiastic amateurs.

"A good director I worked with there told me 'if you don't take this up professionally I'll never forgive you."

He got into drama school and said: "I was told at drama school that one day I would be a dame. I don't know what that says about my acting but that was the prediction of my tutor."

In fact Steven, who is 36, has a varied career. When not appearing as a Christmas dame he has been in Shakespeare and TV shows like Heartbeat, Doctors and Coronation Street.

He said: "I an not interested in fame I just want to be two things when I'm working - interested and solvent."

For the last five years he has written the Windsor pantos and this year is no exception.

Dick Whittington opens today (Friday) and runs until January 6.

The box office number is 01753 853888.