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
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