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Life according to: Panto star, Allan Stewart

Allan Stewart

Entertainer on loving panto, keeping fit and working on a new stage.

How has your year been?

I did a bit of work on the cruises, and I had my Big, Big Variety Show at the King’s in March. Then, out of the blue, I got the call to join River City for a cameo role. I play a comedian, impressionist and singer, who wants to be an actor. I got to do the scene with two of my panto co-stars, Grant Stott and Jordan Young.

It was such a lovely idea. I don’t know why they came up with it, but to get the phone call to do it was amazing. We all know Andy Gray was looking down saying, “What?!” We always said he got Grant the job on River City and now he’s got me a job as well.

You’ve spent decades doing panto at the King’s in Edinburgh but this year it will be at the Festival Theatre due to refurbishment?

I’ve been at the King’s for 24 years, so it’s like leaving your own home, where you know where everything is. We don’t know where anything is here; it’s like a maze. Front of stage, backstage, everything is different.

I’ve worked in Edinburgh and all the theatres all over Scotland, yet I’ve never played the Festival Theatre, which is amazing. When I walk out there on opening night, it’ll be the first time in front of an audience. I’m looking forward to it very much. We have a green room, which is very exciting. They’ve tarted it all up for us.

What will be the biggest change for you from previous years?

The stage is much bigger. I do a sketch nearly every year, where I run from one end of the stage to the other, so I’ve put in a line where I say if I was at the King’s, I’d be at the other side by now. As Grant says, I should get a Fitbit and keep track of my steps on the stage.

What can audiences expect from this year’s show?

I’ve been involved with the script from the beginning, with Ed Curtis, who writes the story, and Michael Harrison, who comes up with the show’s massive spectacles, and I do the comedy.

We’ve got some huge things on the stage. It’s quite spectacular, and everything has to be bigger due to the stage size – more dancers, more cast, everything will be twice the size. It’s the Palladium set, so it looks beautiful. The costumes are stunning, so yes, it will be a very special year.

What keeps you coming back year after year?

The money! Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without panto – just the thought of it, Christmas without panto. It’s just what we do. There’s got to be panic, I need panic in my life.

People ask if I will retire, and I say I’ll just keep going, I might slow down a wee bit on stage, and I might not run back and forward so much, but I want to be wheeled on there eventually. Grant and I did a sketch one year, where it was panto 2038, and I was on a scooter and he was in a wheelchair, and that might be what it’ll be like.

Will you honour your late colleague and friend, Andy Gray?

We’ll all do and say little things and gags he used to do, rather than the big tribute we did last year. We all feel we should do our own private things. We do it for Clare (Andy’s daughter and cast member) as well as for ourselves.

Will you still be part of the panto when the King’s reopens?

As my mum would have said, “If God spares us”. I would love to go back to the King’s, and I’m looking forward to being on the new stage.

What makes panto in Edinburgh so special?

People tell me they used to come with their mum and dad, and now they’re bringing their children. You see the generations out there in the audience, and it sets the kids up for going to theatre. Then there’s all the actors whose first job was panto and it sets them up, like Jack Lowden. Our Snow White is just out of college and straight into her first starring role at the Festival Theatre, which is massive for her.

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, December 17-January 22