Whether it’s Auntie May, Mother Goose or Widow Twanky, whichever dame is your favourite, legendary pantomime dame Allan Stewart has probably played them.
Allan’s a veteran of the scene and has been entertaining both adult and kid pantomime goers since 1975. After predominantly playing the male lead, Allan adopted the role of pantomime's leading lady in 1977. But there's more to being a dame than just looking fabulous in a dress, here Allan shares his top advice for wannabe dames this December.
Be the funniest person in the room
To be a pantomime dame it’s imperative to have a wicked sense of humour. “You definitely need humour to be a dame. I’m there to get the laughs!” says Allan. “If I’m on stage for a minute and haven’t had a laugh then I’m not doing my job right.” Whether you sing, dance or just throw out classic one liners, dames need to get the audience laughing along, the humour needs to be topical too. "Trump, Brexit, Mick Jagger’s baby... If it’s in the news that day make it part of your jokes,” Allan says. “In fact the best thing about being a dame is you can say anything!” Allan laughs. “You can throw out insults and get away with murder!”
Look fabulous in heels
A good dame also needs to be comfortable in a glamorous costume too. “In the past I’ve had 17 changes in one show, this year it’s only 11 though,” says Allan. Prepare to wear over the top gowns and fancy footwear and although you may not need to wear six inch heel stilettos, dames need to feel comfortable moving in heels everyday. “For years I wore kitten heels but the dresser said I should be wearing high heels,” Allan explains. “So three years ago I got my first pair of high heels. They’re about three inches high and I wear them every day,” he says proudly. “My feet hurt on the first few days of rehearsals then I completely forget I’m wearing high heels.” Practice your strut and you'll be on the way to becoming a dame.
Dames are the heart of the pantomime so make sure you play your dame in your own original way too. “Instead of just being a man in a frock, I laugh, talk and sing like a woman and I’m one of the few that play it that way,” says Allan. “I think I’ll be in a frock for the rest of my life!” he laughs.
Allan is currently starring in Jack and the Beanstalk at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh. Find out more information at www.edtheatres.com/jack