I had the enormous pleasure of meeting and interviewing David Robbins who will be playing Widow Twankey. He originally trained as a stage manager specialising in wardrobe and prop making and then something magical happened one year...
David - so this will be your 19th Panto, I understand. How have you changed your approach to Pantos over that time - what do you do more of and less of now?It could be possibly more than 19! But oh... that is a good question - I don't know. When I started, I was quite green. I was doing the Rocky Horror show and they stopped at Christmas. And that year my friend Mark (I made his costumes) said the production company hadn't got a Dame role for him, but they've got an Ugly Sister and he said "I need another sister..." and I knew where he was going! That was 1994!
Right from day one, I would always design and make all my costumes. Now I do the design and stay in control.
But do less of the work! It's a good aim to have!Yes! I suppose so! But I am getting stronger and stronger every year. Partly more confidence. There are and there were so many greats. Barry Howard was a great Dame and he taught me so much (he was the narrator for the Rocky Horror). We would sit and chat... so many stories
Why are there fewer great dames now?There is almost no one to look up to anymore. It's celebrity. When you look at the old dames like the ones I was in awe of - Barry Howard, John Inman, Les Dawson... they already had a presence before you went to see them.
So you we need more celeb dames? Perhaps we need to get you on Love Island - maybe a Dame Love Island?Maybe! But who would you pair up with? Daisy the cow...?!!
In a BBC survey some years ago, when asked "Who's your favourite pantomime dame?" Cinderella’s ugly sisters topped the poll with 43% with Widow Twankie coming second with 37%. How can you, this year, boost things to put Widow Twankie at number one?Come and see the show! Who knows what I am going to do! I start as a little bit of a of dowdy mum but become more glamorous. I am not a drag queen, I am a bloke in a dress but I am not trying to make you think I am a woman. My final costume is really glam but with odd feathers sticking out of it!
Pantos, like all good family comedy, hinge on finding humour that appeals to different ages simultaneously. I have always been in awe of comedians who can do that. What is your secret?The secret is not being secret. Main thing is to present it plain as day: as it is written. That's the thing with innuendo - which always lands on the dame's lap (!). If you hold back, the children then wonder what's happening. Then if you over emphasise it, you still have the kids asking difficult questions.
You were in Dartford for last year's Panto. How is MK better than Dartford?There's more roundabouts! You can't really compare, of course. But the theatre is great here, lots of space. I will be staying in MK.
David it has been lovely meeting you - I can't wait to see the show now!Thank you! I now have 80 wigs to make between now and December.