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Playing Dame – Ian Marr (Dame Trott, Jack & the Beanstalk King's Lynn)

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When you play Dame, how much variation is there in your characterisation between the part in the different panto stories?
It's the same basic character having to overcome similar hardships and challenges. These differing dilemmas can affect the characterisation in different ways, but at the base of it the Dame always remains positive and knows that Good will triumph over Evil.

How do you approach the role?
The Dames that I admire, such as Kenneth Allan Taylor, Les Dawson and Jack Tripp have been a huge influence. I always try to remember that at the end of the day I am just a bloke in a frock.

What do you think is the essence/core of the Dame character?
On the surface she can come across as an ageing man-eater and no matter how many times she's compared to the back end of a bus, she still believes herself to be beautiful and desirable to all men. But underneath this all she is a very warm and caring person as well as being a doting mother and usually has a close bond with those dearest to her – particularly seen in Jack and The Beanstalk in her relationship with Clarabelle the cow or Mother Goose in her friendship with the Priscilla, the goose.

Has the increasing substitution of young male actors for actresses in the Principal Boy role changed the way the Dame is played?
I've always played opposite a traditional Principal Boy – that is, one. played by a girl. Tradition is something I believe to be very important and unique to pantomime in all aspects. For example, a friend of mine once played Dame Trott with a real live cow instead of a traditional costume one. This is something I wouldn't really want to do in pantomime.

What reactions do you want from the children in the audience? And from the adults?
The shows I enjoy best is when there is a mixed audience. After all, first and foremost it should be a show for all the family, so I like to see both adults and children alike enjoying the same aspects and jokes in pantomime – as often it's a child’s first experience of live theatre and hopefully should make a lasting impression. I'll certainly never forget the first pantomime I saw.


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