A chip off the old frock

Sheffield Xmas Lights Switch-On.....Lights Switch on count down,including The Lord Mayor,H from Steps, and Nick Matthew
Sheffield Xmas Lights Switch-On.....Lights Switch on count down,including The Lord Mayor,H from Steps, and Nick Matthew
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“After doing Buttons last year, it’s nice to get back in a frock,” says the Lyceum Theatre’s much-loved pamntomime Dame, Damian Williams.

He plays Dame Trott in Jack and the Beanstalk, alongside Steps star Ian ‘H’ Watkins as his son, Jack.

The producers are promising a break-dancing pantomime cow and plenty of ‘Fe-Fi-Fo-Fun’.

Damian said: “This is the most traditional of all pantomimes. It’s a proper panto, lots of them are stories that have been adapted. It’s going to be spectacular with a lot of great effects and it’s a very funny script. I’ve worked a lot on the comedy of it. I want it to be better every year.

“Dame Trott is very motherly and very cuddly and there’s some outrageous costumes with about 12 changes.”

That means some fast and furious backstage work. Damian said: “I won’t sit still, I have two dressers who have everything out for me.

“It’s all very well rehearsed, a very well-oiled machine. I know exactly what I need and where, ripping wigs off as I go.

“You don’t stop for those two hours, on and off, on and off. You want that first reaction from the audience when you come in and want that to be right.”

Damian’s mother-in-law, Elsie Baldock, makes some of the costumes at her home in Essex to Damian’s designs.

He said: “She used to do bridesmaid’s dresses. She said, ‘I’ll have a go if you like’. They were really good.”

Without giving too much away, he reveals: “There’ll be a lot of dairy and cow-based costumes this year. I have to come up with different ones and think what can I do this year? There’s always one of the costumes that’s Sheffield. Maybe I’ll go for a Henderson’s bottle! I’ll keep going until I get an idea.”

He has been doing panto for 27 years, 18 as a Dame. He played the villain before that.

“With the Dame you like to be part of the audience and like to be on their side. That means you can get away with a lot more. She’s cheeky and they expect her to be. When I first got asked to do it I was thrown into it. It’s great, I love it and I wouldn’t want to do any other part.”

Damian has recently been on tour to Singapore, playing another frock role, Edna in musical Hairspray.

He said: “I’ve never done it before, and just went in for a casting.”

There’s a difference in the roles, though, he says.

“With Edna, you’re obviously back in a dress but you want the audience to forget you’re a man. As a Dame you’re obviously a man all the way through.”

Damian says he loves the way that Sheffield has taken him to its heart.

He said: “I just love it. I love Sheffield. I love the atmosphere and they are great audiences. They love their panto. It will be a good show, you’re guaranteed a good house. I love coming here and I love panto. It’s getting more popular again. It took a bit of a knock in the 1980s and ’90s and now it’s big again. People have rediscovered it and there’s a lot more people doing it. You can get to see famous people off the TV live.

“Panto also introduces a lot of children to the theatre who have never been before. It’s a very spectacular show, possibly the biggest in the area.

“People do leave the theatre and go over to the Crucible Theatre and book for next year. They’ve taken me to their hearts, to say I’m from Essex.”

He has introduced lots of friends to the area, including Ben Richards, who is playing Bill Sikes across Tudor Square in Oliver! at the Crucible.

Damian said: “At Christmas, everyone comes to visit me. They talk about what great fun they have in Sheffield. It’s a great city, there’s always a lot going on.”

He added: “I manage to go home for Christmas Day. I’m straight in the car and straight back on Boxing Day.

“Then I stay in St Paul’s Hotel with the family, right next to the theatre. You can fall out of bed straight, into the theatre!”

Jack and the Beanstalk is at the Lyceum from next Friday, December 6, to January 5. Box office: call 0114 249 6000 or go to www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk