Liam Rudden: Aunty May is back for her big day

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ALLAN Stewart was on the phone this week. You’ll probably know him best as the King’s resident pantomime dame, unless your memory stretches to the 70s and 80s when he was a regular fixture on ITV with The Allan Stewart Tapes - the programme that introduced millions to his alter-ego, Aunty May.

Aunty May was based on the wife of a musical director Allan worked with at STV. He once told me: “She’d go, ‘Hello Allan’ and then give this posh laugh ‘so nice to see you’. So when they asked me to find a new character for one of my early television series I had to do her.”

For panto, Allan took that character and “made her bigger”.

Anyway, back to the phone call, the outcome of which found me sitting in the Empire Room of the Festival Theatre, with selected guests, including River City’s Eileen McCallum, watching a read-through of Aunty May’s Big Day, a play Allan has been working on for next year.

The read-through/workshop, was to give a Allan and the cast a feel for where the laughs were - the funnyman (or woman, as he remained in character throughout) was joined in the hilarity by Andy Gray and Barbara Rafferty, best known respectively as Chancer in City Lights and Ella Cottar in Rab C Nesbitt.

Attending a workshop like this gives an intriguing insight into the process of creating a play. As the trio performed the first act, complete with sound effects, props and scripts in hand, the laughs flowed freely at some points, less so at others.

As Allan said at the end, he now knows what needs to be tweaked. Regardless, it was nice to see the original Aunty May back, albeit briefly - if you’re too young to remember her first time around, think Mrs Brown without the swearing and with a Scottish accent.

Allan, as ever, was at his best when riffing with audience members and ad-libbing as technical issues were resolved.

Let’s hope that spontaneity remains part of the finished product... now all we have to do is wait and see what develops.