After around ten years away from pantomime, David Lambert was drafted into Shoreham’s panto last year when the original dame fell ill just a week before rehearsals began.
He loved it. So much so that he is back again at the Ropetackle this year as Dame Nora Bone as LP Creatives return to continue their Shoreham panto tradition with Robin Hood (December 13-31).
“There were lots of reasons for coming back,” David says. “The company were so lovely to work with and we had lovely audiences. And the Ropetackle is such a good venue. The people have fun: the cast have fun and the audiences have fun.”
And David gets to tell a few rude jokes: “I am really looking forward to it. It will be with a new company, but I expect there will be a few children in the ensemble who will be the same as last year.”
It helps to know the venue: “But really it is just a case of turning up and getting on with it. Every venue has different things that you have got think of, but this is quite a small studio venue, and you have got the children in what they call the mosh pit at the front. You have got to make sure that you are playing to them.
“But it is a great venue for the atmosphere. You walk in and they make you welcome.”
And that’s definitely not the case with all theatres – though David chooses to be discreet as to naming the ones which don’t get it right.
“It is just that some are not particularly friendly, but the Ropetackle definitely is. You have got to get the audiences in and the potential audiences in and you have got to welcome them at the door. And the box office staff have got to make you want to buy tickets. All the staff have got to be friendly and welcoming and Shoreham is good.”
David has done loads of pantos in his career: “It must be in the teens by now! But I had a gap of about ten years until last year, and then this just came up when the dame they were going to have fell ill. Tom the director just phoned me up and asked me to help, and I did. I put my wig on and there I was! It was literally a week before rehearsals started.”
With his experience, David knows what makes a good panto: “For me, the most important thing is to tell the story. There will be some children who might not know the story even if it is familiar to most people. You have got to tell a good basic story and then add some silly jokes that the children will love and then some slightly-naughty jokes that the adults will like.”
Also key is to make liberal use of the word fart, David believes: “That’s the bottom line. Say the word fart and the children will always squeal.
“I think children are a lot more sophisticated than they were 20 years ago, but the basics are still the same: lots of jokes, lots of being silly and make sure you tell a good story.”