Dame set and match again

Jack and The Beanstalk - The Lyceum Theatre - Sheffield Theatres - 6 December 2013
Jack and The Beanstalk - The Lyceum Theatre - Sheffield Theatres - 6 December 2013

Sheffield’s favourite pantomime dame, Damian Williams, is back causing mayhem at the Lyceum in Jack and the Beanstalk.

Not that the actor wasn’t part of last year’s panto, Cinderella, it was just that he was playing Buttons and so was not in drag for once.

“I enjoyed it,” he reflects. “I wasn’t sure how audiences would take it, me not being in a frock, but they seemed to love it A lot of people said it will be nice when you are back in your costumes, so here I am.

“Back to 12 costume changes. Last year I didn’t know what to do with myself because usually I am going off and tearing everything off to get the next one on. Last year I found myself going offstage and then saying ‘oh’ when I remembered and and ending up pacing up and down.”

And so he is Dame Trot alongside Ian H Watkins as Jack. “I have done Jack and the Beanstalk before, though not for this company,” he says. “But I think it’s probably the most traditional of them all because it has always been a panto whereas a lot of them are stories that have been adapted into pantos.”

He is now a fixture with Evolution who have been producing the Lyceum panto for six years and have established a reputation that Williams believes means people will come along whatever show from their repertoire they bring.

“There are eight venues they do but we always like to make this the big show,” observes the actor. “We have to think, how do we make it funnier? I don’t want anyone to go away thinking it wasn’t as good as last year. That’s why you have to throw a lot of money at it like last year’s snow and flying horses in Cinderella and the dragon in Sleeping Beauty. So this year we’ve got a really good giant.”

Though getting into a frock is normally just for Christmas Williams did do so last summer when he was part of a 70-strong cast, crew and orchestra which took a production of Hairspray to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

He played Edna, Tracy’s mum, a role recently played by Michael Ball and Strictly’s Mark Benson.

“They always look for a big bloke to play her. It’s one of those parts where people say you’d be great in it but I had never had the opportunity before. It came up and I jumped at it.

“I’ve done musicals before such as My Fair Lady and Little Shop of Horrors but I hadn’t worked abroad,” he continues.

“I used to do stuff on the QE2. It was great, you were treated as a guest and have a big cabin and then have a few nights in New York. Unfortunately it didn’t last. “

The early part of the year was taken up with a UK tour of the play Being Tommy Cooper in which Williams played his comedy hero to great acclaim.

“We did a night in Edinburgh and there was a lot of interest in taking it to the festival, maybe next year.”

Jack and the Beanstalk runs until January 5.