Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Fairytale romance for panto actors

A FAIRYTALE ending came true for the two stars of the Kenton Theatre’s Christmas pantomime when they got engaged.

A FAIRYTALE ending came true for the two stars of the Kenton Theatre’s Christmas pantomime when they got engaged.

James Clifford popped the question to Rochelle Parry, his girlfriend of five years, after a performance of Peter Pan the day before Christmas Eve.

The couple, who played Captain Hook and Peter Pan respectively, have starred in the Christmas pantomime at the Henley theatre for the past three years so Mr Clifford thought it would be the perfect place to propose.

He said: “The theatre is mine and Rochelle’s life but I wanted the proposal to be private because it’s a very intimate and personal moment.”

Mr Clifford enlisted the help of the play’s cast, crew and director Heather Simpkin to organise the surprise.

He also invited members of their families, including his mother Julia Clifford, 13-year-old sister Jade, Miss Parry’s mother Ann Cartlidge and her brother John-Michael Parry, 23.

After the performance, Mrs Cartlidge took the unsuspecting Rochelle for a quick trip to the shops while Mr Clifford made last-minute preparations.

He projected images of the moon and stars on to the ceiling of the theatre and instructed the cast and crew to hide in the foyer.

“When she came back it looked like the foyer was empty,” he said. “She walked in and I played a song for her on the guitar — badly!

“I got her up on stage and it was just us two. I asked her to marry me and she said ‘yes’.”

He proposed with a ring made of three flawless diamonds, custom made by his great grandfather for his great grandmother nearly 100 years ago.

Mr Clifford said: “We walked out into the foyer and everyone was there to surprise Rochelle.”

Miss Parry said: “It was a lovely surprise. I wasn’t expecting it at all. James and the whole cast had managed to keep it secret.

“The ring is absolutely gorgeous. It means so much to James coming down from his great grandfather, which makes it even more special.

“The proposal was really private and personal but then we were able to celebrate with friends and family afterwards, which was really nice.”

The couple met in a call centre where they both used to work. They set up their own theatre company called Immersion Theatre in 2010.

Mr Clifford said: “The Kenton Theatre is very close to our hearts. I made my professional debut there and it has been a pleasure and a privilege to keep coming back.

“It’s lovely to build a relationship with the town. When we come back at Christmas we get such a warm welcome and it makes the job so much more fun. It makes us want to give 150 per cent and entertain people as much as we can.”

The couple will return to Henley next month for their company’s production of Wind in the Willows.

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