Brief Encounter With ... Potted Panto's Dan & Jeff
Potted Panto, a mash-up of seven classic pantomimes, is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre from 10 December to 9 January and the boys are thrilled to be bringing panto back to Theatreland. Here they tell us about out-panto-ing pantomime and making each other laugh along the way.
What made you choose panto as a theme for the latest ‘potted’ show?
Daniel Clarkson: Both of us had done pantos for years and it was a great opportunity for us not only to do the stories themselves, but to look at all the traditions that are a part of it and, almost in a very tongue-in-cheek way, pull them apart.
Jefferson Turner: We are doing pantos, but with asides and nods and winks to the audience. Even more than there are in panto.
DC: We’re looking at the stories and how we take it for granted that they all live happily ever after and the same prince seems to turn up in every story and get the princess.
JT: And that someone, somewhere, has the power to decide that the evil character dies and then sentences them to death.
DC: We look at Jack and the Beanstalk and we find out that all the giant really did was sit in his castle and this guy came up, robbed him, and when he objected to it, killed him...
JT: ...and everyone goes, ‘yay, he’s dead’.
DC: And the giant’s sat there going, ‘hold on, I’m sat here, keeping out of everyone’s way’. Just because he’s different….
The show is blend of Dick Whittington, Sleeping Beauty, A Christmas Carol, Aladdin, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella - what made you choose those particular stories?
JT: That was huge. There’s seven in it now and we must have had 15 to start with. We argued cases for each and whether they are pantos or not. Cinderella is definitely a panto, Dick Whittington is as well, but then you’ve got things like Red Riding Hood and Mother Goose. Everyone’s heard of Mother Goose, but can you tell me the story of Mother Goose?
I can’t, I’m afraid.
JT: There isn’t one. Genuinely. We spent hours researching this. It’s a collection of stories. There’s one character called Mother Goose, who might as well be called Narrator, and she tells the story of a panto. So it’s a panto within a panto and that’s all it ever is.
DC: We found the ones that we remember from childhood, so the big ones - all the ones that as a kid you remember going to see - are in.
Both of you have performed in pantomimes in the past – which experiences stand out?
JT: My most memorable one would have been when Dan and I did panto together in 2006. We did Cinderella and we were the Ugly Sisters, which was an awful lot of fun because you just get to bully every character and because of that you end up bullying the actors as well.
DC: I’ve done everything from the Chinese Policeman through to Alderman Fitzwarren. I was Fleshcreep in Jack and the Beanstalk, which was fun, because I love playing the bad guy. In a panto you really get to go for it and play it up. The first year I ever did it, I was the prince and it was the most boring time ever. You just had to come on and everyone went ‘hurray’. From a panto, the girls remember the princess, everyone remembers Buttons or the Silly Billy character and the boys remember the baddie: you want to be the one that you would have remembered as a kid.
It’s not often that panto plays in the West End’s traditional houses – does this production feel significant in that respect?
JT: We are incredibly passionate about the fact that there should be panto in the West End. Dan grew up in London and used to go and watch it at the Palladium every year and it’s just a bit sad that there isn’t that much panto centrally, because whatever you think about panto, it’s one of the biggest theatre traditions we’ve got.
You’ve been known as Dan and Jeff for a long time now, in the theatre shows but also as TV presenters and guests on CBBC, Big Brother’s Little Brother and Blue Peter. Is your double-act dynamic set in stone at this point?
JT: I think that now it will always stay similar. It’s something we’ve found that really does work.
DC: It changes on different shows. Like when we did Potted Pirates, my character was even more stupid and Jeff's was a lot more bossy.
JT: I was just properly annoying in Pirates. I genuinely have been booed by children during that show. Does a lot for the self-confident. In Panto, I’m more keen to mess around. I think the levels have got a bit closer this time. But yes, I think Dan will always be the more obvious idiot and by the end I will get my comeuppance because for the whole show I boss Dan around and play at being more intelligent.
Do you think you'll ever get bored of those roles?
DC: Because we write for ourselves, we’ve got the freedom to keep it fresh and change it. I’ll change a line, knowing that it’ll entertain Jeff for that one moment – then we’re just trying to entertain each other and the audience sort of join in. Not that we’re that so self-absorbed to forget that there’s an audience there...