How you can become a panto performer in Bognor | Vicky Meets

Vicky meets... David Rumelle, actor and panto Dame.

• It’s National Panto Day on December 17 – what is it that YOU love about panto?

Panto is the last bit of British variety we have left and where experienced performers come together to put their own individual expertise and spin on a traditional fairy tale story. Playing Dame is like coming back to an old friend each year – adding another coat of paint to one’s specialist subject. I’ve played dame since 1995 and have honed my interpretation to the enth degree. I relish the chance to dust off my Dame and integrate into a surreal world of song and dance and superb talent.

• How many times you have done panto, and what was your first?

David Rumelle, actor and panto Dame

I started playing panto as Villain in 1992 as The Sheriff of Nottingham at Gray’s (with actor manager Alexander Bridge). I then played the comic, before graduating to my chosen specialised subject of dame in 1995 in Mother Goose. Since then, I have played Dame every year (sometimes twice in a year) plus adult, touring and summer pantos. This year marks my 34th pantomime and my 27th dame.

• Which panto are you in this year?

I am playing Dame Trott in Jack and The Beanstalk at the Alexandra Theatre in Bognor Regis. I last played this venue in 1995 and it is where I met my partner. Trotty is a lovely homely dame; a typical ‘mum’ with all the pathos and comedy one could wish for. I am back working with Spillers pantomimes after 20 years, so a happy re-union will this family company.

• What are the key ingredients of a successful panto?

As Roy Hudd always said, the key is to have an experienced cast who can work very quickly and know what they’re doing. The traditions of panto must always be observed. The pace must be fast, the focus clear and the performers keeping the ball in the air throughout.

• What is your funniest ever ‘goes wrong’ moment in panto?

Various things have happened over the years – a power cut mid show, having to play the show at double speed because of a late arriving school, Wishee Washee being knocked out by a flying bar before the ghost gag (and so having to do the ghost gag on my own!). Probably the funniest was a musical director who played the act one finale at double speed due to a keyboard blip. We danced double speed and completed it in 20 seconds!

• What is Bognor doing for National Panto Day?

We are inviting everyone to be panto performers! Visit the Regis Centre’s social media and you can upload a video of yourself and your friends, colleagues, group or classmates performing a traditional panto line: ‘It’s behind you!’; ‘Oh yes it is!’; ‘Booo!’ – whatever you like. The idea is to fill up our social media feed with panto fun from people of all ages. After all, you’re never too old for panto!

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