Now that I’m a fairly experienced Dame, I try and strike a balance between being a man in a dress and playing a mother. I think it is important to play the character truthfully, whilst always remembering that you are essentially a Music Hall creation, so comedy is at the forefront of everything you do. As an actor, I try and find comedy from within the character and like my jokes and especially my opening spot to tell a story and make sense. This can help when you are faced with a quiet audience, as it means the story is still strong and the jokes don’t feel uncomfortable, because they serve a purpose.
Trying to sustain this type of performance takes concentration and stamina and it is important to stay fit during the run. Eating healthily before and during the season is crucial (but very hard at Christmas!). A lot of performers lose weight doing panto, so you need to make sure you eat plenty in order to maintain your energy. If you do become ill during the run, you can’t let it defeat you. You need to be honest with yourself about what you can achieve physically and vocally; the audience would prefer to see you perform to the best of your current abilities rather than watch you crash and burn.
Finally, audiences love to watch a panto cast that are having fun. Remember to enjoy yourself!