Allan Stewart pays tribute to his friend and panto partner Andy Gray
It was in 1999 in Cinderella at the Kings theatre that Andy and I paired up, however the Kings audience had to wait a year before the triumvirate, as we were called, arrived.
Andy and I knew we had a special relationship from the very beginning. We seemed to know what each other was going to do. He knew when that little trickle of sweat appeared on my forehead, I had forgotten my next line and he just loved it. I would give him the look of ‘don’t you dare’ but he dared. We would roar with laughter in the dressing room about the mistakes that happened on stage.
One night when we were appearing in Stones in his Pockets I was about to deliver a very sad poignant moment and say… ’He drowned because his pockets were full of stones. But I said his stones were full of pockets. He just stared at me and my eyes were saying please don’t point out my mistake. How we got out of that I don’t know, but we roared about it for weeks.
You always knew you were in safe hands with Andy. Give him an unfunny line and he would make funny. Baloooooooon. Bannnannnnaaa Umbreeeeeeela. Doesn’t look so good on paper but hilarious when he got a hold of them.
The Big Big Variety shows were where we could really have fun. Like all the great clowns Andy could have you laughing one minute and crying the next. When I screamed at him for losing his drum in a sketch, that hang dog look, those jowls, those eyes turned to the audience and immediately they were eating out the palm of his hand. He often made me look like the panto villain. But Grant did that job much better.
As a team we cracked each other up. On and off the stage. I think that was what our audiences loved about the Panto. Andy’s dressing room was the Green room of the theatre. Everyone congregated in there. Andy had sweets for the kids. Prosecco for his guests and laughs for everyone. We worked out that over the years we had talked in the dressing room for 106 hours.
No one was exempt from his biting wit. You would tell a story and he’d say, ‘you know with a little bit of work that might make an interesting anecdote.”
Andy and I received many lovely reviews over the years but one stuck out in my mind. “Forty years from now grannies in Edinburgh will be shaking their heads and saying remember the great days of real panto at the Kings....the days when they had Andy Gray and Allan Stewart.”
I hope that’s true. I will certainly remember Andy with great love.