Look who's back in the Edinburgh King's panto, direct from working with Renee Zellweger
FIRST, as Cinderella, she lost her crystal slipper then, as Belle, she fell in love with a beast, now the Evening News can reveal that Edinburgh’s favourite pantomime princess is to return to The King’s for a third panto season as Goldilocks, in Goldilocks & The Three Bears.
And actress Gillian Parkhouse, who can currently been seen on the big screen in the Renee Zellwegger movie Judy, can barely contain her excitement.
“Returning is very special to me because when I first did panto in 2013, I thought I’d just do one then have a year off because Christmas is really important to me and having just one-day off didn’t really work,” she explains
“But when I did Edinburgh, it was so much fun I wanted to come back. Then last year, being my favourite of all because I got to do a wee bit more, I wanted to return for a third.
“Normally I’d never have thought of doing two in a row, never mind three.”
Recalling her first King’s panto, Cinderella in 2017, Gillian reveals, “I’d actually been offered the year before but couldn’t do it, so when it came up again I thought, ‘Right, I’ll give it a bash and see what those boys are like - friends who had worked on it told me it was them who made it special.”
The boys in question are, of course, resident dame Allan Stewart, funnyman Andy Gray and panto baddie Grant Stott, the actress continues, “On day one they were all so welcoming that by day three I was pulling pranks on them.
“So I must have relaxed into rehearsals quite quickly.”
Gillian returns to keep ‘the boys’ in order this year alongside newcomer Jordan Young, however, it’s plain to see she is most excited about another return, that of panto legend Andy Gray, back after a year out after being diagnosed with leukaemia.
She recalls, “Last year, they’d hoped that Andy would be back because he calls the panto his ‘baby’, but a couple of weeks before rehearsals my script arrived and I was horrified to see I was in all these comedy scenes.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! Everyone is going to be missing Andy and if I don’t do a good enough job it’s going to come down hard on me.’
“I was panicking I wouldn’t live up to him.”
Luckily Ross, her husband of four and a half years, had a solution - they rehearsed a scene a night as they made dinner, until Gillian was word perfect.
“I loved working with Allan and the only reason I was able to do my job was because the others helped me so much,” she smiles.
“You are only as good as the company you are working with and they are so brilliant.”
Gillian’s Goldilocks script arrived on Monday and with the return of Andy, the King’s panto’s famous trio is back.
“Andy is the heart of the panto, everyone will tell you that,” Gillian says.
“When he came on stage last year to make a brief appearance, he was only on for about two minutes and he got a standing ovation the full time... and there were lots of tears. It was very emotional.”
Explaining the love for the actor who made his name in series like City Lights and recently starred in River City, she says, “Backstage, Andy’s door is always open, whether it’s for him to tell you a wee joke, have a chat or give some advice... he’s always there.
“He just makes everyone laugh, he doesn’t even have to say anything, it might just be the way he holds his teacup... but pretty soon he has reduced everyone to hysterical laughter.”
She adds, “Knowing what he has gone through, this year is extra important because we know how much it means to him and how much he has fought to get back.”
Away from panto, the 30-year-old can currently be seen playing one of the Feather Fine chorus girls in the movie Judy - Renee Zellweger is another star of who she can’t speak highly enough.
“Renee was very petite and always made sure we were looked after, she bought us coffee, cakes, made sure we were all eating... she was an absolute sweetheart. Talented and friendly and up for playing around and having a good time. She never went back to her dressing room in her break and always stayed out to chat, she had time for everyone.”
What you can’t see from Gillian’s scenes in the film, most of which were filmed in London’s Hackney Empire, is that she was working with two badly broken fingers.
She explains, “Three weeks before filming I went to an audition. The room was packed and choreography quite big, lots of kicks and stuff, so we were told just to mark it... it would have been dangerous otherwise. But the girl next to me was quite young and keen. When the choreographer turned around she wanted to impress him and did the move, whacking my hand.”
In great pain, Gillian continued until two of her fingers became so swollen she couldn’t clench her fist. Her Doctor quickly dispatched her to hospital where they tried to remove her engagement and wedding band.
“After working for over an hour they got my engagement ring off, but when my finger started to turn black they had to cut my wedding band off,” she reveals, adding, “So, when I was filming they gave me smaller casts to wear under the gloves.”
Thankfully, as she looks ahead to her third King’s panto, that’s all behind her. Oh, yes it is!
Goldilocks & The Three Bears, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, 30 November 2109-19 January 2020, various times, £18.50-£36, 0131-529 6000