Paul O’Grady on panto, Lily going posh, and starring with strippers

10:23 03 December 2012

Paul O

Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage as Widow Twankey in Aladdin A Wish Come True at The O2. Picture: Alastair Muir

Archant

For most people, leading the cast in an all-singing-all-dancing show twice daily would be quite enough toil for the festive season, but then Paul O’Grady isn’t most people.

As well as starring in Aladdin A Wish Come True, an extravaganza of a musical pantomime, he also has a book to promote (Still Standing: The Savage Years, the third instalment of his life story to date), his weekly Radio 2 show to present and filming to complete for a TV Christmas special for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Here, he speaks to Vicky Edwards about panto, performing and more.

Do you still keep Lily in a bin liner in your garage?

No, she’s gone posh. The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool did an exhibition of all her costumes last year so she’s hanging up in polythene bags on dress rails now. It’s all very orderly and smart.

Did you love panto as a nipper?

I only ever saw a couple of pantos as a kid. The walk down [the elaborate traditional panto curtain call] always gets me because I remember being a kid and thinking: “Awwr, I’d like to be in that.”

What advice would you give to anyone making their panto debut?

You need stamina, so you’ve got to eat. And you do have to give it 110 per cent. You’ve got gangs of rowdy kids and you’ve got to rise above the racket of that and get them on your side. Most of all you’ve got to get them to believe in it. And you’ve got to keep smiling. Normally it’s the villain that gets all the stick so you really have to be on your toes if you’re the villain.

Apart from a great script and telling the story, what makes a good panto?

I’ve seen some really good amateur productions with people really giving it their all. Forget all the special effects. You need enthusiasm and a cast that really gives it everything they’ve got.

Where does the new book start from and take us up to?

It starts in the present day and then goes back to the ‘80s and a pub in Leeds where I was on at lunchtime with two strippers. It’s all about that decade of working in clubs and pubs before eventually getting offered telly and theatre work.

You have lots of animals. Have you ever been tempted to train them and incorporate them into an act?

None of my dogs will sit when I tell them; they just look at me as if I’m a maniac. But Tom, my pig, gets it. He sits on command. You say ‘circus pig!’ and he stands on his hind trotters and then you say ‘roll over pig!’ and he rolls over on his side. People say I should go on Britain’s Got Talent but it would be a very short act!

• Aladdin A Wish Come True runs at The Theatre at The O2 from Friday, December 7 to Saturday, January 5.

Related articles

Latest Stories from SNAP.PA

Hollyoaks has launched a new game fans can download to their phones and tablets.

Read more

A fatal cocktail of blistering heatwaves and an ageing population could be a real killer by 2100.

Read more

Promoted content

Gamucci is a global leader and premier brand of electronic cigarettes

Gamucci has an electronic cigarette tailored for every need. We have a range of both disposable and rechargeable electronic cigarettes suitable for all adult smokers. And for a limited time, some great discounts.

Money saving Christmas gifts to add to your shopping list!

It’s nearly time to go on the hunt for Christmas presents, stuck on what to get for your nearest and dearest? We’ve picked out a selection of great deals to get you started and to help you save some pennies!

Top Stories

Quizzes

Try our fiendishly difficult new Arsenal quiz! Picture: PA

This new quiz will test even the most devoted Arsenal fans’ knowledge...

Read more
How well do you know Shoreditch? (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

From ancient Roman burial ground to bearded hipsters Shoreditch has always had a lot going on. Prove you know more about it than anyone else by taking our quiz:

Read more
Can you name these moustaches?

Movember is upon us once again and men across the country are growing moustaches to raise money to battle prostate cancer.

Read more