Spotlight on Julian Eardley Winchester’s Pantomime Dame
Q: How did you get into theatre?
A: I was involved in school plays and plays at Sunday School (as Jesus I walked on Water and turned it into Wine as well). Then after school I did a degree in drama and from there progressed to Drama School and onto the stage proper.
Somewhere along that line women’s clothes were doned and the rest is history.
Q: You have performed in a few Theatre Royal Winchester pantomimes now, which one has been your favourite?
A: Oh blimey, that’s a hard one as they have all been great fun.
Dame Trott in Jack and the Beanstalk had extra fun as I worked with a panto cow and was made to disappear from a wardrobe centre stage.
My Winchester Landladies still call me LIL after my first time in Neverland as Princess Tiger Lily who I loved playing as she was a savage and quite bad tempered. But my first Dame in Winchester, Smelle Bottom, will always have a special place in my heart as she introduced me to this wonderful city.
Q: You’re back again this year as Dotty (the Dame) in Beauty and the Beast. What are you most looking forward to about this year’s show?
A: Well, I am slightly worried about working with the Beast but hopefully he won’t be too rough with me when he gets moody.
I am also very lucky that Ed Thorpe will be back playing my son Wally, as he is a joy to work with and incredibly funny. Plus we have Ellie Williams returning as Belle who was so lovely last year as Wendy.
Dottie is the palace cook so I am really looking forward to doing a bit of baking in the show. Bath buns, custard tarts, I may even ‘jam up’ a few donuts. That Mary Berry had better watch out!
Q: Winchester must feel like home for you around Christmas time. Where do you like to visit in the city when you’re not on the stage?
A: Winchester is so gorgeous over Christmas but it gets really busy so if I want a bit of quiet I usually pop into St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate which is a beautiful old church upstairs in an arch near the Cathedral.
I also like St Lawrence’s near the Buttercross as the glass doors in there are very beautiful and inspiring.
If I don’t want to be quiet then The Cabinet Rooms across the road from the Theatre was a very popular haunt last year. There are tons of places to indulge my need for retail therapy in Winchester but I found a lot of gifts in Sass and Edge so I am hoping to return there for more festive shopping.
Q: What is it about playing the panto Dame you enjoy the most?
A:: What I adore in playing the Dame is the direct connection with the audience as it is slightly different for each show as each audience has its own personality.
400 six year olds have a very different energy from a more adult evening show audience. Both are great fun to play to but both are quite different.
I also love the warmth and heart that James Barry puts into the script for the Dame. They may be bossy, silly, foolish and daft but they are always very loving and kind. And at Christmas time those are such special things to have to play. Oooo you’ve got me tearing up now!
Right, I had better get back to the oven as me ‘brioche surprise’ should have fully risen.