Dawn French

The one and only Dawn French can’t wait for her panto de­but – play­ing the Wicked Queen in Snow White at The Palladium

YOURS (UK) - - Contents - By Ali­son James

Pan­tomime at the iconic Lon­don Palladium has al­ways at­tracted the big­gest names in show­biz. The likes of Cilla Black, Bruce Forsyth, Julie An­drews, Frankie How­erd and Peter Sell­ers all trod the hal­lowed boards over var­i­ous Christ­mases dur­ing the Fifties, Six­ties and Sev­en­ties.

In 2016, the grand Palladium Panto tra­di­tion was re­vived and Paul O’Grady starred in Cin­derella with Elaine Paige in Dick Whit­ting­ton last year. But this Christ­mas brings ar­guably the star­ri­est draw to date as the one-an­donly Dawn French steps out for her first ever panto role.

She’s play­ing the Wicked Queen and has been pho­tographed look­ing fright­en­ingly fab­u­lous in se­quin-en­crusted black satin, ebony feath­ers and twin­kling scar­let crown.

“Dawn is mak­ing her de­but in this panto and is an ab­so­lute scream,” her co-star Ju­lian Clary re­vealed re­cently. “We’re hav­ing so much fun.”

Dawn is just as de­lighted. “Me and me dar­lin’ Ju­lian Clary to­gether at last,” she has said. “It’s been a long time com­ing – ooooer! I am very ex­cited about Snow White – oh yes I am – and can’t wait to be proper wicked. Roll up! Roll up!”

Dawn be­ing ‘proper wicked’ is bound to be naughty rather than nasty. We’re not used to see­ing her play­ing a vil­lain but the Wicked Queen in Snow White isn’t the first time she’s taken on a ‘wicked’ role. In her Nineties’ dark com­edy se­ries Mur­der Most Hor­rid, she played a mur­der­ous din­ner lady, the Grim Reaper, and a killer ab­ba­toir worker amongst other das­tardly char­ac­ters. Yet with that typ­i­cal French flair for fun and her own unique twin­kle, she made them all like­able and funny.

Star­ring in the big­gest panto in the land, odds are that Dawn’s Christ­mas this year will be very dif­fer­ent to pre­vi­ous ones. She usu­ally spends the fes­tive pe­riod in Corn­wall where she and hus­band Mark Bignell live, but with the late af­ter­noon Christ­mas Eve per­for­mance not end­ing till around 7pm, and hav­ing to be back in the the­atre for a 2.30pm per­for­mance on Boxing Day, it’s ru­moured that she and Mark will stay in Lon­don.

While Christ­mas Day is sure to be a lovely day Dawn (61) has said that since her mother passed away six years ago, it has also some­times been dif­fi­cult.

Writ­ing poignantly in her hugely suc­cess­ful book Me. You. A Diary she ex­pressed what so many of us who have lost loved ones feel at this time of year. “I usu­ally have a dip on Christ­mas Eve. I’ve only gone a bit Scroogey and bah hum­bug be­cause my dar­lin’ mum’s gone. I have no par­ents (her fa­ther com­mit­ted sui­cide when she was 19). Christ­mas is so much about fam­ily and par­ents, I find that ev­ery part of your grief is ex­ag­ger­ated at Christ­mas. It’s when you miss your par­ents the most, when you’d like to be con­sid­er­ing them and buy­ing a present for them and you’re not. You just get re­minded of it. But I just have to move into this next phase of my life. So, when I have this dip, I think, ‘How am I go­ing to get out of this in time for Christ­mas?’ ”

Dawn has said how thank­ful she is for a cheer­ful hus­band who plays Fa­ther Christ­mas quite often for var­i­ous peo­ple and loves Christ­mas. And she doesn’t want to ruin it for him. “In the end I just pick my­self up and ac­tu­ally cap­ture the joy. Any­way, who taught me to love? Who am I like? Who lives on in me and is here at Christ­mas – and al­ways? My mum. So, you re­mem­ber those who aren’t here but you cel­e­brate those who are. It al­ways comes right in the end.”

We couldn’t have put it bet­ter our­selves, Dawn. Merry Christ­mas!

■ Snow White at The Palladium runs un­til Ja­nary 13. Visit lwthe­atres.co.uk/the­atres/ the-lon­don-palladium/

■ Dawn’s best­selling book Me. You. A Diary, a Sun­day times best­seller, is now avail­able in pa­per­back in book shops and on­line.

Rolling out some wicked fun in Mur­der Most Hor­rid in the Nineties

From left: Dawn with Jen­nifer Saun­ders in a Christ­mas Carol, too many din­ners in The Vicar of Di­b­ley and with Jen play­ing re­al­ity stars the Kar­dashi­ans

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