ACTOR John Challis, forever Boycie - the dodgy car salesman in that phenomenal hit tv series, Only Fools and Horses, will be one of the stars in this year’s pantomime offering at Worcestershire’s top theatre venue.

He has just gathered with other members of the cast who will be performing in the always popular Aladdin over Christmas and New Year at Malvern’s Festival Theatre.

Mind you, he may have to be forgiven if any of the festive shows are late getting underway as he might be delayed en route by a wildlife rescue mission, having a particular penchant for helping hedgehogs and elephants!

Not that he expects to find too many elephants on the road when he travels to the theatre from his Herefordshire home...

A wildlife enthusiast, he has in past years assisted with rescuing a sizeable population of hedgehogs on the Scottish island of South Uist that had been threatened with extermination by local farmers, and helped with their relocation to the mainland.

He is also a patron of TUSK, the organisation that assists with the care and future of endangered elephants in southern Africa.

He said: “Helping to preserve wildlife is something I have always been interested in.”

While creatures great and small may be one of his prime charity interests, he also lends his support to the Air Ambulance organisation and the RNLI.

Something of a panto veteran, he has now appeared in around 30 - 25 in succession at one point in his lengthy career - and says he enjoys playing the role of the villain and the rapport with the audience, especially the younger element. On this occasion he will be in the role of Abanazar.

Originating from the Bristol area John has long been a regular on the small screen going all the way back to the black and white days of Dixon of Dock Green.

He was also in Z Cars, when police series began to get ‘gritty’ - but he will forever be associated with Sir David Jason’s ‘Del Boy’ and Nicholas Lyndhurst’s ‘Rodney’ in the wonderful Only Fools and Horses.

He still appears on our screens and also does a one-man stage show looking back over his career and his time with stage wife Marlene, who he also appeared with in The Green Green Grass of Home.

Apperaring with him in Aladdin will be Mark James, now something of a Malvern regular, as Wishee Washee and Jamie Steen as the panto dame, Widow Twankey.

Mark James says he is now planning to make Malvern his panto residential home after appearing at the theatre for several years, returning there by public demand for his fun and energetic performances.

“I love the area, enjoy the theatre and the audiences, especially the youngsters who, I feel, I have built up quite a rapport with over time and I have seen many of them growing up with a great affection for the panto and hopefully stage shows in general.”

Other members of the cast at the panto press launch were Aaron Jenson, who will play the title role, Danny Rogers who will be PC Pong and Birmingham-born Loula Geater will be the Spirit of the Ring.

Aladdin - described as ‘a magic carpet ride that’s pure genie-us’ - opens at the Festival Theatre on Thursday, December 12 with a final performance on Sunday, January 5, 2020.