Castlemilk River City star Gary Lamont knows there’s nothing like a dame.
And that’s most certainly the case for his current role, as Gary is appearing as Mrs Birdseye in Treasure Island at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow.
It’s a real change for the former Castlemilk High pupil, who appears as Robbie Fraser each Tuesday in the BBC Scotland soap.
Gary said: “I’m brand new to the Pavilion family panto this year, as it’s such a great theatre, first and foremost, and it’s so handy being right in the middle of town.
“But I’m really long in the tooth when it comes to doing panto - I’ve done them the length and breadth of the country, in Arbroath, Dumfries, Ayr, Edinburgh and Greenock last year.
“It’s such a buzz, and that’s ultimately why performers do it, year on year. It’s one of the hardest jobs you’re ever likely to do, though, with the energy levels it takes, and you need to have good stamina for it.
“But it’s such a laugh too, and there’s times when you stand on stage and wonder, ‘Am I really getting paid to be here and enjoy myself so much?’
“I’ve been on television for a few years now, but it’s great when you get back to the theatre.”
The live nature of appearing on stage makes the job fun and a challenge for the cast.
Gary laughed: “As a performer, it’s the scary part, doing it live, and that’s the thing that I miss with the schedule I have with River City. I don’t get back to do as much theatre throughout the year.
“There’s always an element of apprehension about what’s going to happen, and you worry about what your response will be if people shout out, and hope you’re going to be funny enough!
“Last week I did some audience participation, and because I’m wearing a massive frock, one cheeky beggar had a look up! Thankfully, I had a big pair of bloomers on.
“The thing then is how you react to it and although you’ve got 1000 things in your head that you could say, you’ve only got a second to pick one, and hope it’s the right thing that gets a laugh.
“The other great thing is we get the kiddies along, who won’t know who I am because they don’t watch River City, but they accept me as this big, buxom lady. Then there’s others, the grannies, the mums and the dads, who know who I am, and you get a lot of warmth from that.”
As well as outrageous dresses, Gary’s also got to wear an over-the-top fruity hat.
Gary laughed: “I actually woke up this morning, thinking my neck’s quite sore! What I’ve learned when wearing it is you don’t turn your head too quickly to the side, and I think I’m starting to develop muscles in my neck, where I never knew I had any!”
In the cast with Garyy are River Cityy co- star Stephen Purdon ( Shellsuit Bob), alongg with former star Hollyy Jack (Nicola Brodie), as well as former Pop Idol winner Michelle McManus, radio star Cat Harvey, and comedian Johnny Mac.
“It’s fantastic,” said Gary, “because I’ve previously worked with everyone in the cast, apart from one, in one capacity or another, which is just amazing.
“Every day, I’m going to work with my pals, and the best part is I get to see friends who I don’t often get the chance to catch up with in person. I’m having the best time!
“There’s such a friendly spirit - everyone is sending each other pictures of our Christmas trees, and what we’re having for dinner on our days off.
“I am so excited to be performing onstage with such a talented cast.”
Gary will return to shooting River City in February, and will then be back onstage at the Pavilion in the summer in musical Please Stay.
He added: “When we star ted rehearsals for the panto, there was a two week overlap with the end of the last River City block, which was the most bizarre experience - I’d wake up in the most bizarre headspace, trying to remember my lines as a panto dame, or as a hairdresser!
But it was a lovely couple of weeks - and a great way to down tools and then go and try on a dress!
“After we finish the panto, I’ve got five weeks between it finishing and going back to River City, so I’m going to go to Australia to recharge my batteries.
“After that, I’m going to fly on to America and meet up with Holly Jack in Los Angeles, as she’s going over there to study.
“We were actually in Glasgow yesterday, having a coffee, and even though it was freezing cold, we were just thinking about what it’ll be like in LA!”
Gary appears in Treasure Island at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow until January 18.