ABSENCE makes the heart grow fonder – but in Elaine C. Smith’s case people didn’t even notice she was gone!
The much-loved actor is so synonymous with the pantomime at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow that people failed to realise she hadn’t starred in it for more than a decade.
“Taxi drivers and folk in the street would ask, ‘Are you doing the King’s this year again’ and I’d tell them I hadn’t done it in 13 years,” she laughed.
“I thought I would take this year off from panto, but then I was asked to come back here and couldn’t say no.
“I’ve done the past eight years in Aberdeen at His Majesty’s Theatre, but I didn’t do panto for five years before that.
“I was doing things like Calendar Girls in London and my stand-up show. And my mum, who was such an integral part of this, died and I just couldn’t face it.
“That year I helped cast it – I brought Karen Dunbar in. It was Sleeping Beauty that year, just as it is this Christmas, and she said she would do it if I gave her some tips.
“But when I was in London doing Calendar Girls I was approached to do the Aberdeen panto, but I didn’t think they would like me up there.
“I agreed to do it for a year and loved it, and we built up a great rapport in those eight years.
“Part of me is sad not to be in Aberdeen and it was an emotional moment when I was doing my final show there last year, but things change.
“Jimmy Osmond is in Aberdeen this year – I always hoped to be replaced by Marie at some stage in my career, but there you go!
“I’m 59 now with a grandkid, so it’s nice to come home to your own bed at night.”
Determined to be home every Christmas Day despite working in Aberdeen, Elaine would have a driver whisk her from the Granite City to Glasgow at midnight on Christmas Eve, before she was picked up at 9am on Boxing Day to return to His Majesty’s in time for the matinee performance.
No such issues this year, and another bonus is having her granddaughter, Stella, around to see her in action at the panto, which opened last night.
“Stella was my mum’s name, so it’s going to be funny and special to have a Stella around the theatre again watching me in panto.
“She’ll probably be confused as to why I’m wearing a fairy godmother outfit, but she’ll soon be up dancing in the aisles.
“I’ve been back working at the King’s for shows like I Dreamed A Dream, Annie and Calendar Girls over the years, but it’s truly magical at panto time.”
And Elaine believes it’s important everyone gets to enjoy that magic.
“Pantomime is our national theatre at this time of year and is the first experience most kids will have of the theatre, so we need to give them a love of it. It could be the first time they see dancing or music in person.
“We have to ensure the theatre is not seen as just being for posh folk or people with money.”
This is a busy period for Elaine. Earlier this year she filmed the latest series of Burdz Eye View, which is currently being shown on STV, and the third series of network hit, Two Doors Down, will soon return to BBC2.
One comedy that no longer appears to be coming back, however, is the much talked about stage version of Rab C. Nesbitt.
“Nothing seems to be happening, as far as I know. I don’t know why.
“It would have been a good way to say thank you and farewell,” Elaine said.
“I finished recording Two Doors Down on November 11, had a day off, and then rehearsals began for the panto the following day.
“My husband watched the pilot episode before me and said it was funny. When I saw it I was raging I wasn’t in it, because it was so good!
“People have found it and really enjoy it. I went along thinking I was just going to appear in one episode, so I didn’t expect this.
“Peter Kay told me it’s the funniest thing. I was told I do the best swearing on British TV!”
There will be none of that at the panto – but there will be plenty of laughs.
Sleeping Beauty, King’s Theatre, Glasgow, until Jan 7
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