PANTO star and former King of the Jungle Joe Pasquale is busy watching the new series of I'm A Celebrity ahead of his Christmas run in Southampton, despite branding it 'sedate'.

"It's a bit like Noel Edmonds House Party," he laughs. "It's fairly sedate so far and looks a bit safer than the jungle. You're not likely to get any snakes, spiders or rats coming into your bed there.

"And they've got hot water whereas we had to go and jump in some grubby stinky lake.

"It's different, maybe it's easier. But it's like anything, it has started off slower, but it could look very different in a couple of weeks."

Joe is set to star in Mayflower Theatre's socially distanced version of Sleeping Beauty alongside Birds of a Feather favourite Lesley Joseph.

The funnyman's appearance in panto elsewhere had been cancelled along with all other appearances since March and Joe had been spending down time painting, writing a just published second book of short horror stories and trying to keep fit.

So he was thrilled to get the call a month ago to head South for the festive season.

"Work is stressful, but doing nothing is even more stressful! I jumped at the chance as Southampton is one of my favourite gigs in the whole country. I've been there in The Producers and Spamalot and other things and it's a wonderful room. It's a well managed theatre and the local audiences love the place and that's all I'm looking for. I'm so happy to be doing it."

Joe, who would like a vaccine and a swish pair of trainers like the ones he had when he was 12 for Christmas, plays Muddles in the one act production which runs for two weeks over Christmas and New Year.

"It's all about the laughs for me," he adds. "I've been doing panto for 35 years and I absolutely love it. You can rehearse and rehearse and until that last member of the cast the audience is there, you don't know what's going to work.

"It's different every show and I love to ad lib. I'm always the central character and I'm there to create chaos whether I'm Muddles, Buttons or Wishee Washee. It's the same character in a different costume. It should be a great experience."

Tickets for the run, from December 19 to January 3, are on sale from or 023 8071 1811.