Panto star con­fes­sions: “Drugs, booze & af­fairs… but the show must go on!”

It’s panto sea­son – oh yes, it is! So Closer spoke to a sea­soned panto per­former to find out what re­ally goes on be­hind the scenes

Closer (UK) - - Contents - By Mel Fal­low­field

For many F fam­i­lies, they are one of the high­lights of Christ­mas – but an insider tells Closer that be­hind the cur­tain, the go­ing­son at pan­tomimes are any­thing but fam­ily-friendly.

Ac­tress Emily Phillips*, 23, has been star­ring in pan­tomimes for the past seven years. She says, “I’ve played ev­ery­thing from a dwarf to a good fairy, and I ab­so­lutely love panto sea­son. But it is ex­haust­ing – and not just be­cause of the shows, but be­cause af­ter the cur­tain comes down, we’re out par­ty­ing ev­ery night.


“It’s nor­mally af­ter 11pm by the time we hit the lo­cal clubs, but we have so much adrenalin to burn off, get­ting drunk is the only option. There have been many times I’ve thought I was go­ing to throw up from a hang­over on stage. It’s par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult when you have to wear a tight corset and feel faint! There have been a cou­ple of times where we’ve had a glass of Prosecco be­fore go­ing on stage for the fi­nal act, though I’ve never got drunk.

“One time, we only had about an hour in be­tween per­for­mances. We were all hun­gover and starv­ing, so we put on our dress­ing gowns and fought our way through the crowds wait­ing to come in to the next show to go to the lo­cal Domino’s, grab some piz­zas and stuff them down in record time be­fore get­ting back into our cos­tumes and hit­ting the stage. Thank­fully, the cos­tumes are of­ten fas­tened with Vel­cro so you can pull them on and off quickly!

“I’ve never been in one where drugs have been openly taken, but a friend of mine was star­ring with a soap star who took co­caine all the time and quite openly, too. She was dubbed the “Snow Queen” by her cast mates for her love of white pow­der. Sadly, she got into rows with the other cast mem­bers be­cause she was out of con­trol, which sounded aw­ful.”

And Emily re­veals that some of the hi­jinks on stage are un­re­hearsed. “On stage, we of­ten play pranks on each other. We have ‘freeze’ scenes where some of us have to stand still, while the rest of the cast carry on the scene. One joker that I worked with used to come up be­hind me and undo my bra and even pulled down my pants once. It was out of sight of the au­di­ence, but it was so dif­fi­cult not to crack up! I didn’t mind – it was good-hu­moured and not re­motely seedy.

“Dur­ing scenes, we some­times sub­sti­tute in rude words, but the au­di­ence don’t no­tice. For ex­am­ple, ‘Oh no you can’t’ be­comes ‘Oh no you c**t’ – if you say it quickly enough, no one picks up on it!


“As we all get on so well, there are in­evitably ‘pan­tomances’. You get to­gether with some­one but you both know it’s only for the run of the show. Usu­ally it’s stress-free and just a bit of fun – one of my mates even had a fling with a mar­ried TV star. I once had a brief romance with the guy who was my dance part­ner un­til I ended it with him – then dur­ing the lift scenes, he’d drop me too early so I’d fall on the floor. I was con­stantly covered in bruises.

“I’ve been in­jured other times too. Once, I was play­ing a dwarf and wore a huge mask and hat. I couldn’t see where I was go­ing and walked into part of the stage and fell over – the au­di­ence all thought it was part of the show and laughed. I was in agony, but ob­vi­ously I had to get up and carry on like noth­ing had hap­pened. The show al­ways goes on!”

Pan­tomimes are a rite of pas­sage at Christ­mas (posed by model)

The ac­tress has starred in pan­tos for seven years

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