Resident dame Allan Stewart shares his favourite memories from his 24 years performing in panto at the King’s Theatre
1 1989 Robin Hood
This was my first King’s panto. Also a milestone because my son David was born during the run of the show, on 18 December. We planned it so that my wife Jane would be induced on my day off. So I flew down to London and he was born on cue. I brought him on stage three weeks later in the finale – 14 years later he played on the same stage with me in my own variety show.
2 1992 Dick Whittington
This was special because Jane and I performed together. We had so much fun. Unfortunately, every time I tried to make her laugh on stage she stayed focused and made it look like I had messed up . . . very clever. And that was the year our cat had a liking for vodka – he’d come on stage reeking of booze in a manky cat costume.
3 1997 Jack and the Beanstalk
This was the first time I played Dame. I had my own costumes made for this show. Unfortunately I took them to a dry cleaner at the end of the run and forgot all about them. By the time I remembered the company had gone bankrupt and I never saw them again . . . very sad.
4 1998 Aladdin
I played Widow Twanky, which is the part I will be playing next year. This was my first panto with Andy Gray and Grant Stott. It was during this show that we realised that when we were all on stage together there was a bit of magic in the air. Unfortunately, Grant also found out that we would pick up on any little mistakes he made . . . now we all do it to each other.
5 1999 Cinderella
This was the last time I was in panto as a male. Look at the colour of my hair . . . brown. It’s salt and pepper now . . . well grey, really. I could dye it I suppose. I always said once I put on a frock I would never go back, but the producers thought I had one more year as a male lead left in me. I played opposite a beautiful young girl, Leslie Ann, who funnily enough eventually became our nanny.
6 2000 Dick Whittington
The Millennium – we were all set up for the Millennium disaster to happen. It didn’t – we went from strength to strength with the dream team getting to know each other. Grant hadn’t realised he was destined to be a baddy yet.
I deserted Edinburgh and went to Wimbledon. But in all honesty, I realised Scottish panto is special and I missed the boys, so the following year I came back for good.
7 2002 Snow White
I was Nursey this year and the frocks which started out quite simple started to get a bit more outrageous. One of our dwarves regularly ran on stage at the wrong time and shouted ‘she’s been poisoned!’ and I would say . . . ‘Not yet Dear.’ Andy and I started to feel like a double act and I think he said ‘I’m no very well’ for the first time.
8 2003 Jack
Two things I remember about this year – it was Grant’s debut as a baddy, he played Flesh Creep, and I also remember having trouble with my mobile phone. My poor dresser bought me soothing balm to calm me down as I screamed down the phone at the Orange call centre for cutting me time after time. This stressed me out more than anything in the panto that year.
9 2004 Aladdin
This was a very different panto as Paul Elliott decided to cast Asian actors – everyone except for ‘the Team’. They were fantastic and we had such fun trying to explain the Scottish panto traditions. One of the female jugglers lay on her back and balanced objects on her feet, and Andy said one night ‘I bet she can’t wait to go home and put her feet down.’
10 2005 Mother Goose
I didn’t know anything about this subject but I was told it was the most ‘honest’ panto of all, as it dealt with the vanity of a misguided woman – I wrote a song called ‘Be Careful What You Wish For, It Might Just Come True’ – which summed up how important it is to get your priorities right. I had a massive fat suit made and sweated my way to 10st 8lbs by the end of the run. Not a pretty sight.
11 2006 Cinderella
This was the King’s centenary year and it was a very special show. However, when I flew on stage on a great big moon I started my opening poem. As I entered there was such a huge roar that I was taken aback and forgot my opening line. Andy was standing at the side of the stage and shouted ‘It’s your f***ing name’. ‘Oh that’s it’ I thought and said ‘Hello boys and girls my name is Fairy May’. They didn’t let me forget that one in a hurry.
12 2007 Goldilocks
This was memorable for the wrong reasons. Andy went off to do another panto and we all missed him. Grant and I forged a great rapport on stage and fortunately we still had fun. But we did miss him.
13 2008 Aladdin
Again we were Andyless but we did have a 3D genie of the lamp. It was brilliant and it was all new technology at this time and we were the only panto in Scotland doing this. The kids loved it.
14 2009 Robinson Crusoe
I had a wonderful quick change sequence in this panto where I changed my costume five times within a very short timespan. It was an idea I had after watching an act on the Royal Variety show. I would like to do it again – only with eight changes – watch this space. Also, in this picture my boobs were filled with water and jiggled uncontrollably – Grant couldn’t take his eyes off them.
15 2010 Jack
Mr Gray returned and the dream team were back together again. Andy was worried about the reaction he would get, but as he walked on stage on the first night there was a roar and he was back. And this, of course, was the year we did a publicity shoot for the show with a cow, which incidentally we ate recently.
16 2011 Cinderella
I remember this one because Grant arrived on stage in a frock as one of the ugly sisters – 6ft 7ins in his high heels. We had Ross Marshall, a little person, as the other ugly sister and he appeared from under Grant’s dress. The best entrance ever.
17 2012 Mother Goose
And so we were back full circle to the vain Mother Goose again. After working with Maggie, my wonderful dresser for so many years, we started to play a game while getting dressed. I fill my mouth with mouthwash and have a conversation with her. Believe it or not she understands me – that’s how well she knows me, poor woman.
18 2013 Peter Pan
This is the first time I have played in this panto and it’s been wonderful. We’ve made a lot of changes and it feels fresh and exciting again. We’ve brought back the old tradition of the songsheet, but with a clever twist, and I’m back in the harness, flying again. I know – at my age!
The reviews and feedback have been amazing. So here’s to the next 16 . . . 10 . . . 5 . . . well, next year, at least, Aladdin.