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Theatre Royal panto: Lesley Joseph

December 2014

SHE is fiddling with a gold crown, adjusting earrings and applying make-up during a lunch break that seems to be far from what you’d call a break.

“It’s all a bit manic at the moment,” admits Lesley Joseph, in her dressing room at the Theatre Royal where she and her fellow cast are running through dress rehearsals ahead of tomorrow’s opening night.

It follows two days of rehearsals in London, then two more at Nottingham’s College Street Studios.

“We’ve only just finished Birds,” she says, referring to the second series of ITV’s revived Birds of a Feather, which will begin on Boxing Day.

“We finished in the studio at Pinewood in London on Wednesday. We hadn’t overrun but I’d said yes to panto before Birds had been confirmed for another series.”

The return of the sitcom earlier this year after 15 years, starring the original cast of Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Joseph as Dorien Green, attracted millions of viewers.

“That series was very much about finding out whether it was going to work, were the public going to welcome it back... which they did – the ratings were fantastic.”

Eight million watched the opening episode.

“To go out on Boxing Day is such a huge compliment to the show, 25 years after it started.

“There is something in Dorien’s past that comes back to haunt her,” she says when asked for a few teasers from the new series, its 11th since 1989.

“Sharon turns out to be something you never imagined.”

A man?

“Nerrr, I dernt think serr,” she laughs, affecting a Lancashire accent. “And there’s a health scare with Tracey. It goes very much between drama and comedy which is what Birds has always done.”

It was the live stage version of Birds which last brought her to Nottingham (apart from the panto launch last summer) two years ago when it ran for a week at the Royal Concert Hall.

“I’ve done a lot of shows here so I’m used to the city really. I’ve been to that thing in the courts where there’s a judge,” says Joseph of the Galleries of Justice Museum.

“I don’t have a favourite restaurant here as such, but we had a meal in Marco Pierre White’s the other day and that was lovely. I have a favourite boutique that has some lovely eccentric clothes.

“It’s near the Lace Market – I love the Lace Market.”

Not that she expects to get much time to explore the city over the next six weeks playing The Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, opposite former Eastenders/Dancing On Ice star Sam Attwater as The Prince and Ben Nickless, who returns after last year’s panto with The Hoff, as Muddles.

“The dressing room becomes like a second home, really,” says Joseph. “You eat, breath and live panto. But that’s panto. I’ve been doing it for 25 years so you sort of get your head around it. It’s a strange old life.”

Does she miss anything or anyone?

“You don’t have the time to. I know that sounds silly.”

The next day off for her and the rest of the cast is Christmas Day.

“I’ll be at home in London.”

Will you be doing the cooking?

“I hope not.”

Get an M&S ready meal.

“Oh, I did that last year. It was brilliant.”

The next day, she won’t be watching the new series of Birds Of A Feather kick off because she’ll be on stage at the Theatre Royal for the second show of the day as the Wicked Queen.

She likes evil characters.

“They are quite hard work but whichever character I play, even if it’s not the evil one, I always manage to get a bit of evil or a hint of naughtiness in there.

“It’s always slightly Dorien-esque. I can’t play pure good.

“You wouldn’t cast me as a goody goody anyway. It’s boring for me.”

The production includes wire-free flying and pyrotechnics, so is she involved in any of that?

“I couldn’t possibly tell you that.”

That’s a yes.

“If I fly I fly, that’s all there is to it.”

After its run she’ll be going on holiday: “I’ve been working solidly. I love panto, don’t get me wrong. I’d do it all year if I could. I love the magic, the dancing... you get everything in one show. It’s fantastic but afterwards you are shattered.”

She adds: “Then we’ll see if we get more Birds.”

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs runs until Sunday, January 11. Tickets start at £15 and are available fro the box office, call 0115 989 5555 or go to

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