Robert Squire will be arriving with his own dresses when he steps into the dame role in Bognor Regis this Christmas.
Beauty and The Beast is at the Alexandra Theatre at the Regis Centre from Monday, December 12-Monday, January 2, with Robert promising a colourful array of costumes.
“I just love doing the dame. It’s a completely-different character. It’s certainly not yourself! It’s a complete mask, and it is just great fun. It’s such a traditional thing, the dame in a panto, and you get a great connection with the audience. You also get a lot of costume changes! What’s not to like about having up to 11 different dresses in one go!
“The costumes vary according to the panto, but I am a dame who provides costumes, and I get complete say over what I wear. My contract says that I provide the costumes, and I get a look at the script in advance to get a feel of what is needed. I need to know the references and the scenes, and then I go through stock that I have currently got. Sometimes the director will give you ideas like ‘This scene requires something foody’ or ‘This scene requires something outdoors’, and I try to keep up with that.
“I have actually got 28 costumes in stock. I am having two made for this year and one altered. You have certain costumes made for certain titles. Last year, I did Dick Whittington, and I had a couple of sailor things made, which for instance I couldn’t use for this year. You have to work out something appropriate.
“Professionally I have been a dame for seven years,” says Robert who otherwise is a graphic designer, working mostly in the arts and based in Exeter where he first started to act.
“I came up through the amateur scene in Exeter. I have been a member of societies since I was about ten. I started in the chorus and you build your way up to various different roles. One year they were looking for ugly sisters, and then about two years after that, our resident dame said he was giving up and wanted some time off.”
Robert auditioned, got the job and hasn’t looked back. Dame has now become an essential part of Robert’s Christmas – though it is spreading to the summer too: “I have already had an inquiry about doing a summer run. But throughout the last two summers, I was at Weymouth in their pirate panto, playing a male role.
“I am self-employed, so I am able to work my way around it. But I think I would always want the balance.”
The point is that the theatre is inevitably an uncertain business: “There is no guarantee in the theatre, and I don’t live in London so I can’t get to all the auditions, so really, myself, I am quite happy having the split (with the day job).”
And this latest dame stint will revive some happies memories: “I know Bognor relatively well because of Butlins. As a child, we used to come here quite regularly for the annual summer holiday or when we had a spare bit of cash. I’d say I know Bognor relatively well. It is lovely to be back here.”
As for the dame he will be during his stint at the Alexandra Theatre, Robert is promising “a motherly dame, a cuddly dame… But I can still get my legs out sometimes! But really it is the motherly dame that I will be doing. Some dames can be quite comical, but really they are part of the glue that holds the hold story together. As dame you are part of bringing the narration along.”
Tickets on www.alexandratheatre.co.uk on 01243 861010.
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