Happy Anniversary, Julian!
This year our beloved Panto Dame, Julian Eardley, celebrates 10 years of appearing in our traditional family panto.
So we sat him down to talk all things Panto, his favourite memories, and to look through the archives at some of his most wild and wacky costumes.
If you’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin…
He first stepped out on our stage as Smelle Bottom, in 2008’s Beauty and the Beast – and at the start of each show had to stick his chewing gum on the Proscenium Arch, making himself right at home!
The following year, while the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz, he shared his dressing room with Toto the dog!
He played a grumpy Tiger-Lily in Peter Pan in 2010; ugly sister Beatrice Hard-Up in 2011’s Cinderella, then Widow Twanky in Aladdin the year after.
Then he just disappeared for two years – as if by magic!
Thankfully, he was back in 2015 for Jack and the Beanstalk, and as Dame Dottie Trott he was a lazy bugger, always getting caught sitting about at the start of every scene.
He was an ugly sister once more in 2016’s Cinderella. This time as the Fabulous Hardup Sister #1 – and enjoyed a spin around the stage in a fabulous Swan Lake number. We can’t imagine him being so nimble, frankly…
Then two years ago Julian played Mrs Smee in Peter Pan and was joined, for the first time, by this year’s lead, Ed Thorpe. The two developed a fab rapport on and off stage, and Julian recalls how their characters would always get things wrong and say ‘oh, that makes much more sense’ after.
They returned to everyone’s delight, 12 months later, in last year’s Beauty and the Beast. Julian was Dame Dotty and just loved trying not to laugh during every show’s cake-baking scene opposite Ed.
Now, in his tenth role as Dame Dolly Dumpling in Dick Whittington, we ask if he ever thought he’d do as many pantos as he has – 17 in all.
He said: ‘When I was first in Panto, in my student days, I hoped I could get in to more pantos in the coming years. As a child I always loved the Dame characters, so playing one was always an ambition.
‘I finally managed in 1999. I was Nurse Fatima Farahar in The Lost Voyage of Sinbad in Basingstoke – written by a talented panto writer, James Barry (whose Dick Whittington script is his 15th consecutive Christmas show for us).
‘It only took eight (!) years for him he take a chance on me to play Smelle Bottom. The rest is very well documented in the Theatre Royal Winchester archive!’
Oh yes, including folders and folders of pics of Julian’s brightest and best costumes – which we’ll come to!
In the meantime, we asked, if Julian could design his perfect Panto Dame costume, what would it look like?
He said: ‘It would be in a really stylish multi-coloured material, a very elaborate full skirted evening dress, dripping in diamantes, beads, bows, lace…
‘It would be a step in affair, which would zip up on the first attempt and never need repairing! It would have its own structure, be durable and light-weight so it’s easy to wear.
‘It would be sweat repellent and self-freshening too!
‘If anyone can make me that dress they are a miracle worker!’
If you’ve ever seen Julian in one of our pantos, you’ll know how big and bold his costumes are – but won’t necessarily have heard how much work it takes to get him in and out of them!
Finally, we asked him for his Panto highs and lows.
‘I’ve had a ball in all ten of the pantos I’ve done in Winchester, and have wonderful memories from each year – but my favourite thing about Panto in general is the joy and delight it hopefully gives an audience.
‘Nothing beats 400 excited children enthusiastically shouting out a ghost/monster/giant/rat warning to a Dame and friends –or enjoying a good laugh with, or at, her and her friends.
‘The worst thing is the week after Panto finishes, wondering what to do with all that extra energy you have around ‘show time’! My house is never cleaner than in the second week of January!
‘Before then, I am primed and ready to see what highlights Dame Dolly Dumpling will bring to this year’s panto.’
And if you want to see, you’ll have to make sure to buy tickets for the show!
Meanwhile, here’s to Julian’s last ten years with us and our hopes for many more.
Make sure to have a good look at the many costumes he’s sported, pick your favourites – and to see more, come and see him and the rest of our brilliant cast in this year’s Dick Whittington.
You might even get the chance to meet them after!