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Andrew Pollard, panto dame
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a panto dame

Written by
Danielle Goldstein

…according to Andrew Pollard, 49.

Audiences appreciate local laughs

‘This is my eleventh year as the panto dame at the Greenwich Theatre. Most of our audience comes from Greenwich, Deptford and Woolwich, so I throw in jokes about the area. This year we’re doing a panto version of “Peter Pan” and I’ve written a new story that starts in modern-day Greenwich. But obviously we’ll make Brexit and Donald Trump jokes too.’

Londoners can be a bit uptight

‘I used to do pantos at Oldham Coliseum in Manchester and, I hate to say this, but they can be warmer up there. We get a very mixed group at Greenwich Theatre and sometimes they take a little bit more encouraging to let loose.’ 

Dames need big wardrobes

‘It’s become a tradition for us that pretty much every time the Dame comes on she has a different costume. I’ve got 12 this year: that’s a lot of swapping! They get more outrageous throughout the show, so this year I’ll be coming on dressed as a palm tree with coconuts and as the Titanic.’

Pantomime has a pagan history

‘The sources of panto include the pagan festivals where men dressed as women, and vice versa. Letting loose is a big part of it. I think it’s traditionally done at Christmas not because of religion, but because you want to be light, bright and silly when it’s getting cold, dark and horrible.’ 

Some panto parts are indispensable

‘I don’t like to repeat the same things every year, but people do love shouting “He’s behind you!”, so you have to plot that in. The years we don’t do the ghost routine [when a phantom scares all but the Dame off stage], we get letters. People like familiarity.’

Peter Pan’ is at Greenwich Theatre until January 8 2017.

Now find out the things you only know if you’re a matchmaker. 

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